Human activities and its impact on the vulnerability of the Bornean banteng (Bos javanicus) in eastern Sabah

Investigating the impact of disease transmission and hybridisation as a
contributor to the banteng’s declining population in Sabah.



The Bornean banteng (Bos javanicus lowi) is an Endangered (IUCN Red List) wild bovid that is endemic to the island of Borneo. Today, due to a significant loss of habitat and illegal hunting, the Bornean banteng is the rarest large mammal in Sabah with only approximately 300 individuals remaining.

This study is being undertaken in the Tabin and Kulamba Wildlife Reserves (located in East Sabah, Malaysia), the only two areas recording the presence of the banteng on the island’s East coast. Surrounded by oil palm plantations, recent surveys estimate that there are only approximately 152 individuals remaining in Tabin and Kulamba. Interconnected by a thin line of riparian trees where, like other vulnerable habitats, the presence of non-confined domestic cattle and other domesticated animals has raised concerns regarding possible disease transmission and hybridization. This project aims to understand and evaluate how this risk is contributing to the declining banteng population.

    Dung sampling ©DGFC

    Using the latest data to map the banteng’s distribution range in the study areas and in
    collaboration with relevant government departments, oil palm plantations and farmers, we will gather information regarding the cattle’s’ grazing ranges and identify potential sites for interaction with banteng.

    Once habitat overlap has been confirmed using camera traps, distance surveys, drones and non-invasive sign surveys, hair and fecal samples will be collected for DNA analysis to determine the impact of hybridization. In collaboration with farm owners, cattle will be inspected for ticks and blood and fecal samples will be collected to determine the presence of parasites. Tick borne pathogens will be extracted and identifies by molecular analysis.

    Fixing camera trap ©DGFC

    The project’s deliverables and expected outcomes include:

    1. To undertake a census of Bornean banteng (population size dynamics, breeding evidence and sex ratio) within the study area.
    2. Map the current land use to provide accurate information of habitat and domestic cattle roaming ranges.
    3. Identify the occurrence of hybridization between domestic cattle and banteng and map sites to propose areas to erect barriers to effectively separate domestic cattle from wild banteng.
    4. Compile a: i) list of parasites of veterinary importance infecting wild cattle and banteng, ii) distribution map of the inter-species interaction as hot spots of disease transmission and hybridization.
    5. Identify the prevalence of pathogens detected in fecal samples of wild cattle and banteng. The results of the study will be presented to the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Departments, oil palm plantation managers as well as farmer associations and the results will inform the appraisal of future commercial grazing ranges to further support the ongoing conservation strategies for the banteng population in Sabah.
    Plantation at edge of Kulamba forest ©DGFC
    Tabin forest ©DGFC