Too much time on my hands again!
An artist’s impression of the inside of my mind on a rainy night in Borneo… and no, that’s not Daniel singing! 😛
Yesterday I saw a nice example of a trilobite beetle (Duliticola sp.) in the bears’ forest enclosure. Their scientific name is from Mount Dulit, in Sarawak, although they are found in many places throughout South-East Asia.
An adorable little beast.
Yesterday I spent a day on the Kinabatangan river with some friends from the BSBCC. It was quite ironic how the boatman took us to see species such as kara (long-tailed macaque) and gabuk (pig-tailed macaque) which can be seen easily at Sepilok.
I was more interested to see the proboscis monkeys and reptiles. We did not manage to see any elephants, though we were able to see marks where some had been using the river bank recently before our arrival.
By far the best sighting of the afternoon for me was a young orangutan (kogiu) with its mother. When first seen, the youngster appeared to be in trouble as a group of gabuks were gaggling up around it, so I was relieved when its mother appeared.
The wet season in Borneo is usually during November to March, when the northeast monsoon is blowing. The dry season in Borneo starts normally in April, though this year La Nina seems to be having a strong effect upon us.
During the summer months the air quality may suffer due to forest fires. Transport may be difficult during the dry season due to the low water level in some rivers and therefore some villages, longhouses and interesting sights inland may be difficult to reach. – visitborneo.org
There’s a good description of the El Nino and La Nina effects here (in French) and there’s a very amusing description of the effects of these phenomena upon the USA at the moment, apparently by Forest Gump!
The stresses these pseudo-periodical weather patterns place upon ecosystems are compounded when one closely follows the other, as is happening at the moment. You can look at my previous post on El Nino and La Nina to see how these events may effect wildlife here, espicially the sun bears.
A few nights ago I went to Sepilok’s Rainforest Discovery Centre with Owen and Marianne, a couple of outstanding volunteers at the BSBCC. We arrived at dusk and went up onto the canopy walk to observe the flying squirrels before descending to ground level to walk the trails for an hour or so. There were species of frog and lantern bug which I had never seen before, but the most impressive animals seen were a glow worm (a beetle larvae I assume belonged to the family Rhagophthalmidae) and a Bornean slow loris (Nycticebus menagensis).
Here’s a bit of blurred and shakey video footage:
We had to be very careful about flash photography in the forest as it can affect the eyesight of some of the nocturnal wildlife. This is especially true for mammal species such as tarsiers.
This lantern bug was my favourite pic of the evening.
In 1997 there was an El Niño event which caused drought and forest fires in Borneo. Smoke from these fires made fig wasps (which pollenate fig trees in a special relationship called mutualism) virtually extinct in many areas here. There are more than 800 species of fig wasp on Borneo; often, a species of wasp may be associated with just one species of fig.
This was significant as sun bears and many other species need fig trees; they are opportunistic feeders and will eat figs when other fruit is scarce.
El Niño and La Niña events do not occur at regular intervals. The El Niño event of 1997 was immediately followed by a La Niña. This La Niña brought extra rains, which stopped many trees from producing fruit ( as many fruiting trees in Borneo require a period of drought to trigger a flowering). This lack of other fruits due to the absence of a drought was compounded by the lack of figs (which many forest animals, including sun bears and orangutans, fall back on when other fruit is not available.
Climate data suggests an increase in average temperature of 0.4 Celsius since the mid eighties. This has increased evapotranspiration, leading to around a 20% increase in rainfall. It may be possible that increased rainfall due to climate change could increase the frequency and severity of future famines.
The worrying thing is that we now seem to be experiencing a repeat of what happened in the late nineties, as can be seen in the figure below.