Effects of Oil Palm Agriculture on Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus) in the Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo


MSc researcher: Roshan Guharajan
Supervisors: Benoît Goossens, Wong Siew Te, Todd Arnold, and David Garshelis
Institution: University of Minnesota
Collaborators: Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Status: Completed
Research Aims:
  1. Determine if and why sun bears venture into oil palm plantations.
  2. Determine if sun bears and other Bornean mammals are viewed by oil palm planters as agricultural pests and/or dangerous animals.
  3. Identify important factors affecting sun bear habitat use and selection.
  4. Determine activity patterns of sun bears in the lower Kinabatangan.
  5. Asses the body condition of sun bears in the lower Kinabatangan.

Interview surveys with oil palm plantation workers and farmers

We asked respondents to identify wildlife they encountered in oil palm plantations. Respondents were either estate workers or small-scale farmers. Although our primary intent was to gauge the use of plantations, destructiveness towards crops, and danger from sun bears, we conducted a thorough examination in order to compare sun bears to other species. In this way, we will understand how different wildlife are perceived through this key demographic.

Camera trapping and strip transects

We obtained photographs of sun bears from camera traps located throughout the lower Kinabatangan. Additionally, we conducted systematic searches within 500 x 5 or 100 x 5 m strip transects and recorded all forms of sun bear signs (claw marks on trees, broken termite mounds, etc.). With these datasets, we were able to understand bear habitat use, habitat selection, and relative abundance.