THF Conservation Grant 2019/2020
Song of the Gibbons is a collaboration between the School of Social Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). It is part of an innovative three-year study using passive acoustic monitoring to better understand gibbon population ecology in and around Taman Negara National Park. The study enlists members of the Bateq hunter-gatherer community at the fringes of Taman Negara National Park as co-researchers. It is led by anthropologist Lye Tuck-Po, who has a longstanding relationship with this community.
Research on the effects of habitat degradation and human predation on gibbon populations in Malaysia is currently poor. There is little reliable information on gibbon population densities in protected areas like Taman Negara National Park as well as forest outside the park. The study will help to answer some of these questions and could lead to collaborations with the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilian) to develop more targeted conservation actions.
By enlisting the Bateq as researchers to glean additional insights into gibbon demography and behaviour, a more nuanced understanding of the human-alloprimate interface in the study site will be produced. Findings from this study will be applied to evaluate the conservation status of gibbons, ultimately improving their protection.
A THF Conservation Grant will complement existing project financing from both USM and a National Geographic Explorer Grant. These funds will primarily be used to engage Bateq field researchers and facilitate their travel to Penang for data analysis. It will also contribute to the cost of organizing a Sound Analysis Workshop at USM, run by trainers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. This workshop will strengthen capacity building among local researchers who are using bioacoustics monitoring technology.
Dr Susan Lappan from Appalachian State University, United States, who is studying the behavioural ecology of gibbons is an advisor to this study. Dr Lappan is also a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Section on Small Apes and the country coordinator for the IUCN Malaysian Gibbon Action Plan.