Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Giant green sea turtle conservation!

One of the major high light of the trip over all was our visit to Turtle island off the east coast of Sabah. This is one of the nesting sights for giant green sea turtles. They are considered 'threatened' by the IUCN, so there is a big conservation effort going on.
Every single egg laid on the island is collected as they are being laid. It's not hard to collect the eggs because the mother laying the eggs goes into a sort of trance when she is laying, making her oblivious to anything around her. The eggs are then taken to an incubator, this is simply a protected area of sand where they are reburied and marked. The mother is measured and recorded, if she isn't already tagged they tag her. She then returns to the sea completely oblivious to the eggs no longer being in the hole she buried them in and not to return for 2 years. Once the turtles hatch they are released directly into the wild. The night we were there, over 1000 eggs were collected.
HOWEVER a scientist put trackers on 1000 baby turtles and by the time they got to the feeding grounds about 10 years later only 3 were alive, that's 99.97% of all babies die before they reach sexual maturity. This is a common technique for carrying on the species, either animals have few babies and take very good care of them or have lots and hope that a few survive to carry on the species.
Now although we are partly responsible for this huge number of deaths we must remember that the babies are very small, so are easy prey for most large carnivorous sea creatures. But we are still partly responsible. They are killed by:
  • Pollution.
  • Eating plastic bags (their diet is mainly jelly fish so an easy mistake).
  • Trapped in fishing nets.
  • Killed by propeller blades.
  • Hunted for shells and other components.
  • Eggs used in chinese medicine.
So as a result of all of this the turtle laying sights are now so protected there is a military presence on the island (they're also there to stop Philippino illegal immigration). There are also very strict regulations such as; you're not aloud on the beach after sun set and before 6 am and you're not aloud to take photos while on the island but you can buy them.

Oh and 1 other thing, i'm no bunny hugger but, baby turtles are the sweetest little creatures in the world.

Friday, 22 May 2009

5 orang utan encounters.

Throughout my short time in Borneo I had 5 different meetings with 5 different orang utans in 5 totally different situations. Orang utan is Malay for man of the forest and is technically 2 words (so don't tell me I'm spelling it wrong).

The first meeting was probably the best. While on the river cruise through the rain forest we saw a completely wild female orang utan in a tree by the river side. It was truly amazing to see such a beautiful animal, so carefree and natural. She didn't mind us watching her one bit and just watched us back. We spent a good half an hour just watching her swing about in this tree before leaving her alone.
The second was in the Sepilock orang utan sanctuary. Although we didn't see much of the orang utans we didn't mind as the sanctuary does so much for conservation. Their purpose is to rescue orphaned or injured orang utans. They then hand raise the animals and slowly release them into a protected area of rainforest around the sanctuary. They will put out food on platforms for the orang utans to come back to and feed from if they want but they become effectively wild. Some orang utans come back for all of their lives and some are never seen again. These orang utans become completely wild again and form their own natural society, they now have a 3rd generation of wild orang utans around the sanctuary. The sanctuary has even released some orang utans back into the class 1 rainforest (untouched by humans).
Our third was at the zoo. Although other enclosures in the zoo where horrible, I was impressed with their orang utan enclosure. It was well spaced, had good enrichments and was well maintained.
The forth encounter was with a semi wild orang utan near the hot springs we visited. The hot springs are on the edge of Kinabalu park which is a huge area around mount Kinabalu, which is totally protected rainforest. This orang utan lived on the edge of the park and was occasionally fed by park rangers when food was scares. However it became familiar with humans and is now fed a lot by tourists (that's why he's a bit fat). So although he's technically wild he was partly domesticated.
The final meeting we had was a completely domesticated orang utan that we had come to the resort for us to see. Although we weren't aloud to touch her (named girl) we were aloud to we close to her and watch her play in the tee. It was very strange to see a combination of orang utan behavior and copied human behavior. Some people might think it's wrong to have her like this but now that she is domesticated there is no point trying to release her and the money she raises by visiting tourists like this goes to conservation of her natural habitat (this is the same principal behind zoos).

Over all I found it interesting to see the behavioral and even physical differences between the 5 orang utans. If you look carefully at the pictures you will see the more wild orang utans are more of a dark reddy-orange colour opposed to the captive ones which are a light orange colour. Out of all of them my favorite will always be the wild orang utan.

Ring tailed lemur enclosure!

While I was in Borneo we visited a local zoo. We were all prepared for poor enrichments and enclosures as the animal welfare laws in Malaysia are virtually none existent.
Now you all know now much I love ring tailed lemurs. So, even though I was prepared for it, their enclosure in this zoo still shocked me. Some enclosures we saw were quite good, almost as good as british zoos. But this was the most horrific thing I have ever seen.
This enclosure contained 2 lemurs. The enclosure consisted of a box that was about 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet. There were a couple of branches in it for them to climb on. And that was it!!!
While I was stood there I watched one of them walk round and round and round on the branches in the enclosure. This is what is called "stereotypical behavior". This type of behavior is seen in captive animals that are basically going insane. In British zoos they try to reduce this by giving the animals "behavioral enrichments". This is basically things to do, things like trees to climb on, balls, hiding their food, dragging meat for carnivores to chase. Basically little things that will encourage them to do things they would naturally do in the wild.
Other stereotypical behavior you might see:
  • pacing.
  • rocking/swaying.
  • over grooming.
  • self harm.
  • calling.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Well i'm home from my exciting 2 week adventure in Sabah (land below the wind) in Borneo.
I'd quite like to go back now. I've been home 5 hours, I think that's long enough!!
A quick summary of the things I did:
  • Went to turtle island and saw a turtle lay eggs, released baby sea turtles and went snorkeling over a coral reef.
  • Went to a bat cave and got pooped on, saw lots of insects and the sight for collecting edible birds nests.
  • Went on a river cruise through the rainforest and saw wild proboscis monkeys, orangutans, silvery langers, and long tailed macaques.
  • Went on a night walk and saw frogs, insects, a mock viper and got leaches attached to me.
  • visited the Sepilock orangutan sanctuary and saw some protected orangutans.
  • went to Monsopiat the village of the head hunters tribe, where I joined in tribal dancing, used a blow pipe and ate a live insect (not a small one either).
  • visited a zoo where some enclosures I was impressed and others I saw truly socked. i also rode an elephant.
  • went out on a boat to go fishing but didn't catch fish, instead I jumped 15 feet off the boat and into the water (very fun).
  • visited Kinabalu national park and saw some very endangered plant species.
  • went on a walkway through the rainforest canopy (very dangerous but lots of fun) and hummed the indiana jones theme tune.
  • went swimming in a hot springs and forgot to bring spare clothes.
  • met a semi wild male orangutan (I will write more on that later).
  • had a domestic orangutan come to the resort for us to simply be around and interact with a little, which was interesting and enjoyable.
  • went to a local market which was fun except for them selling pets and not looking after them properly.
  • went white water rafting only grade 1 and 2 (gentle) but it was still fun. and I got pushed in by spider man (the instructor's name, don't ask).
  • also sampled lots of local cuisine and drank lots of cocktails.
  • Even the plane journeys were fun, I watcher 6 films, flew over Iraq and saw a lightning storm in india from above.
So all in all it was everything I expected and more. I would do it again in a heart beat. I've learned so much about the country, culture, species, rainforest and in-situe conservation programs.

Over the next couple of weeks I intend to write a series of blogs about the things i've seen, done, learnt and thought about while in Borneo. I will look at some moral and ethical issues raised during the trip.

Monday, 4 May 2009

And I'm off

well I've been planning and preparing for this trip for the last 2 1/2 years. Finally I'm leaving for Borneo tomorrow morning at 3:30am. I'll be back in about 15 days and I'll have lots of things to post!!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Black mamba snake.

I was also very pleased at seeing a black mamba snake today, last time I went they were redoing the enclosure.
They're truly beautiful creatures. The names comes from the insides of their mouths being back.
They are considered one of the world's most dangerous snake.
They are found in many parts of Africa and can be found in many different types of habitats, including; savanna, woodland, and rocky outcrops.
They are the second largest venomous snake in the world (behind the king cobra) and the largest in Africa. They average at about 8.2 feet but have been known to reach 14 feet. The one I saw today was about 10 feet (at a guess).
They are also the world's fastest land snake, they can reach speeds of 12 mp/h.
When they hunt mambas deliver 1 or 2 strikes to land mammals and will strike and hold on when catching birds. But when defending themselves from larger animals (such as humans) they will deliver as many strikes as possible, they can strike as many as 12 times in a row. A single strike contains enough venom to kill up to 25 men.

All in all, it's pretty clear why it's considered one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
So if you ever happen to some across one; RUN THE FUCK AWAY!!

More lemurs

Well today we went to Cotswold Wildlife Park, not one of the best zoos around (mainly because they allow dogs in which I hate) but it was still good. I really enjoyed just spending some time with one of my favorite animals, the ring tailed lemur. It's always good fun to just sit there and watch them interact.

He looks a little like he's in trouble.
A very affectionate couple and their new babies.
Everyone lined up.
Proud mum and her babies.
The whole troop.