Mammals Diversity at Wehea Protection Forest

(Rustam; Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity Laboratory, Faculty of Forestry, Mulawarman University; PROFAUNA Indonesia's advisory board member)

As a relatively intact lowland tropical forest, Wehea protection forest in east Borneo, Indonesia owns a high wildlife diversity which is very typical. According to accountable previous researches, which applied several different methods like direct observation, tracks (animal tracks, body parts, scratches, etc.), capturing, camera trap, and getting information from rangers, there are several mammals species inhabiting Wehea protection forest.

The data provided in this article is a result of a research conducted in Wehea protection forest and land concession adjacent to it, which spares a part of the land as a buffer zone, set as high conservation value forest (HCVF). The data of the mammals will still develop and advance as further inventarization using camera trap is ongoing; this is a joint program between Wehea customary institution and ICON (an NGO).

Until now, 61 mammals species have been identified. It is 27% of the total number of mammals species in Borneo, or 35% of the total number of mammals species in East Borneo. They consist of 9 orders (Insectivora, Chiroptera, Scandentia, Dermoptera, Primates, Pholidota, Rodentia, Carnivora, and Cetartiodactyla), and 22 families (Erinaceidae, Pteropodidae, Emballonuridae, Rhinolophidae, Hipposideridae, Vespertilionidae, Tupaiidae, Lorisidae, Tarsidae, Cercopithecidae, Manidae, Sciuridae-Scurinae, Muridae, Hystricidae, Ursidae, Viverridae, Mustelidae, Herpestidae, Felidae, Suidae, Tragulidae, and Cervidae).

Some of the mammals species found at Wehea protection forest are rare and listed in IUCN's Red List of Endangered Species: 7 species are near Threatened, 14 are Vulnerable, 4 are Endangered, and 1 species is Critically Endangered. CITES also include 5 species in its Appendix I, 11 species in Appendix II, and 2 species in Appendix III. In the country, 17 of the species are protected by the Government Decree no. 7 of 1999.

macan dahan di hutan lindung WeheaOverall, the identified mammals species are mostly those which require good forest to live. There are 4 big cat species (family Felidae) at Wehea protecion forest, out of 5 big cat species found in Borneo. This proves that the ecological function of Wehea protection forest is working fine. The felidae family is a top predator, with its largest member being the Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi). This species is known to present only in pristine tropical forest with minimum disturbance. The same also applies for the other big cat species, the marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata), and the Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia). As for the Leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), sometimes it can be found around cleared land, production forests, palm oil plantation.

There are 18 species of bats inhabiting the primary lowland forest, dominated by insectivorous bats. This, assuredly, affect the balance of inset population. If this forest is damaged, drastic insect population explosion would be inevitable because the bats could not function properly as their predator. Positive functions of the insects (as pollinators and so on) will turn negative for human, such as becoming pests for plantations.

The other carnivores are under similar conditions. The order Carnivora in mammals nomenclature in Borneo does not necessarily indicates that all mammals in this order eat meats. The order Carnivora is not linear to the trophic level (type of food). Some of the mammals is Borneo that are included in this order are also insectivorous and fruigivorous like the civets (Viverridae), and also the Sunbear (Helarctos malayanus) that eats honey. Despite the wide-ranging members of the order, the ecological function could be fulfilled and form a complete food web.

Mammals' function as seed disperser  plays a vital role in creating a rich lowland forest biodiversity. Frugivores and herbivores have irreplacable role, such as the primates  and ungulates from the order Cetartiodactyla. The primates are very mobile, but they are also very dependent on the sustainability of primary forests in the hingest startum.

Wehea protection forest is one of the last stands of primary lowland forest in Borneo. Economic development plans, manifested in various programs, arranged by the government still exclude ecological considerations which actually is -in the long haul- an eternal investment for general prosperity.

Protecting wildlife habitat is far better than ambushing illegal dealers and then sending the animals to rehabilitation facilities. But do we have a choice? 

© 2003 - ProFauna Indonesia

ProFauna Indonesia is an Indonesian society for the protection of
wild animals and their habitats