Endangered otter spotted

Posted on July 26, 2010. Filed under: Bio-diversity |

The otter had not been seen in Sabah for a century. The last specimen known in Borneo was an animal found killed by a car in 1997 in Brunei, the oil rich kingdom located on Borneo – a vast island also shared between Malaysia and Indonesia. — PHOTO: AP/SABAH WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT

KUALA LUMPUR – ASIA’S most endangered otter, a species not seen in the wild in Borneo for a decade, has been caught on camera for the first time, conservationists said on Monday.

Researchers using camera traps photographed the elusive hairy-nosed otter in the Deramakot forest in Malaysia’s Sabah state last year, but it took some time to confirm its identity. The otter had not been seen in Sabah for a century. The last specimen known in Borneo was an animal found killed by a car in 1997 in Brunei, the oil rich kingdom located on Borneo – a vast island also shared between Malaysia and Indonesia.

‘This is great news for Sabah and shows once again how unique and fortunate we are in terms of wildlife and nature,’ Laurentius Ambu, Sabah Wildlife Department director, said in a statement.

‘In addition, these findings also boost the conservation of this endangered otter internationally as historically this otter was distributed throughout large parts of South-east Asia.’ The international environmental alliance, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has listed the hairy-nosed otter as endangered as it clings to existence in pockets of South-east Asia.

It is most threatened by poaching for meat and traditional medicine. Its habitat has also been hit by pollution and loss of prey due to overfishing. In 2008 Sabah launched a programme to study the state’s carnivores, including wild cats, civets, and otters.

The project is being carried out by the German-based Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research with help from the Sabah Forestry Department. The forestry department said the discovery of the otter showed that long-term forest management was key to the ‘protection of some of this country’s most threatened species and of the unique biodiversity of the forests of Borneo’. — AFP

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