Galliformes status and conservation in Southeast Asia
With 25% of their species threatened, Galliformes are under major pressure from human disturbance. Relatively well studied in China and the Indian subcontinent, basic data is still lacking on most of the species/genera inhabiting southeast Asia, which impedes the effectiveness of conservation management efforts. Important conservation questions include distribution status, population trends, and hot-spot areas for species protection.
The Conservation Ecology Program is addressing Galliforme conservation in a number of ways. This includes regional, landscape-level investigations of species distribution and status using predictive mapping, and using up-to-date survey methods adapted to both loud calling and cryptic species. Studies are underway, and have been completed, on key threatened species from all the available genera, investigating ecological parameters such as nesting, predation avoidance, ranging behaviour and micro- and macro-habitat selection. When possible, comparison of the current status with past datasets is needed to define population/species trends, and remote sensing is used to look at long-term habitat loss, degradation, and to highlight where further survey or strengthened management/outreach should take place.
Small and meso-carnivore conservation
Most mammalian research focuses on large, charismatic predators. However, Southeast Asia is also a vitally important region for the conservation of meso- and small mammalian carnivores, with several endemic and globally threatened species. A recent status and distribution assessment suggests that Thailand is likely of comparably higher global significance for the conservation of these species as they are still relatively abundant and recorded across several protected areas. Hence, the major questions of interest among conservationists include the distribution and status of meso- and small mammalian carnivores, localities requiring strengthened protection to ensure their survival, and ecosystem services provided.
It is increasingly evident that the best hope for some species lies in the conservation of unprotected or underprotected habitats which lack large apex predators. In these systems, small carnivores assume the position of the top carnivores. Wetland habitats are particularly crucial for survival of species such as Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus), Smooth-coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Hairy-nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana), Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps), and Otter Civet (Cynogale bennettii). Habitat loss and degradation is likely threatening these species survival as well as the overall integrity of their ecosystems through trophic cascade. Much of the Programme's recent work has focused on conducting camera-trap, key-informant interviews, and animal sign surveys in underprotected wetlands, coastal habitats, and urban areas. Ecological studies and interactions among sympatric mammal species are also studied.
In terrestrial habitats in locations such as dipterocarp mosaics of eastern Cambodia and forest fragments across the region, small and meso-carnivores serve as top predators. As with systems hosting large carnivores, it is important to understand the interactions among species and influence of dynamic resource availability in determining species habitat use and population trends. Yet, basic ecology of most of small carnivores, in particular threatened species such as Large-spotted Civet (Viverra megaspila), are still lacking in most parts of their ranges. The Conservation Ecology Program is addressing these questions in several locations.
Both in wetland and terrestrial habitats, the programme is also working to identify long-term conservation hotspots and baseline data for population assessments, which should also benefit these species regionally.
Satellite tracking of Asian Sparrowhawks
Raptors are at the apex of the food chain and are therefore important indicators of the state of the environment. Many species are threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Determining their breeding grounds, migratory routes, and wintering sites is therefore essential for their conservation. Several hundred thousand raptors migrate annually from their temperate breeding areas passing through Thailand to largely unknown wintering grounds in Malaysia or Indonesia.
Khao Dinso, (Pencil Hill) on the coast of Chumphon province of southern Thailand, is the best site in Southeast Asia for monitoring the southward migration of raptors. Building on information gained from several years of raptor counts and ringing, we have now started a program of satellite tagging to obtain more information on the movements to and from their breeding grounds and how they spend their non-breeding season. In September 2016 three Japanese and two Chinese Sparrowhawks were fitted with 5 g satellite tags.
Of the Japanese Sparrowhawks one flew down the east of the peninsular before crossing to Borneo where she settled in an area dominated by secondary growth Acacia trees. The second reached a latitude level with Kuala Lumpur near the East coast; no signals have been received since mid-October. The third flew down the west side of the peninsula and crossed over into Sumatra and on to Bangka Island.
Both Chinese Sparrowhawks were tracked down the peninsula and across to Sumatra in stages of over 300 km per day.. The first has settled near Medan in an area dominated by mature oil palm and rubber plantations. The second bird stopped in southern Sumatra for nearly three weeks before continuing East with short daytime flights before settling on Adunara Island just East of Flores.