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Problems and Advantages of Using Radiotelemetry on Bornean Mousedeer

Abdul-Hamid Ahmad, School of Science and Technology, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, LB 2073, 88999, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Wildlife management practices in Southeast Asia have depended little on thorough ecological studies. Only recently have efforts been made to study Malaysian rainforest animals in greater detail. The same holds true for Sabah, one of two states in Malaysian Borneo. These efforts, however, are mainly addressed towards large and threatened mammals such as the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Malaysian gaur (Bos gaurus), and more recently, Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus). Low visibility, solitary behavior of most mammals, logistics, and inexperienced personnel partly account for the lack of research on rainforest mammals. While rainforest management issues become more and more apparent, wildlife management inevitably becomes important. Setting aside natural forests as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and conservation areas will further enhance the need of wildlife management. Managers of rainforest wildlife, however, have to be supplied with adequate information. This is now being looked into by several research institutions, although the status of information is still at the baseline level.

Radiotelemetry techniques were applied on a study of Bornean mousedeer (Tragulus javanicus and T. napu) ecology. These two ungulate species are the smallest ruminants in Bornean forest. Considerable advantages were foreseen before radiotelemetry was adopted, all partly due to the difficulties in carrying out direct observations on the animals. Small home range and daily range size, overlapping home ranges, cryptic behavior, and high population density of mousedeer turned out to be the greatest advantages in using radiotelemetry. For larger ungulate species, several modifications and other techniques were evidently needed. A number of problems were also discovered during the course of the research and these problems gave some limitations to the amount and types of data which could be gathered using radiotelemetry. Some problems such as poor transmission were caused by the undulating terrain and the existence of large trees as well as rock boulders under which the animals usually rest. Timber trees also posed as effective barriers which blocked most transmission signals. Other problems were related to the daily activity of the animals which proved to be almost crepuscular. Daily activities were also influenced by the environmental changes, e.g., rain and dry days. These multitude of unstereotyped behaviors related closely to the type of information needed for the management of the species both naturally and in captivity. Basic techniques of radiotelemetry such as manual triangulation on foot seemed to be a good method in the Bornean rainforest but it also proved to be time and manpower intensive.

This presentation discuses the advantages and problems of the use of radiotelemetry on Bornean mousedeer at greater detail. Giving more attention to the development of more suitable equipment will assist future research on the animals. Moreover, research on larger ungulates, e.g., muntjacs (Muntiacus sp) and sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), could also benefit from various manipulations of the radiotelemetry techniques applied in mousedeer research.

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