THF Research Grant
Macaca Nemestrina Project is a long-term behavioural and ecological study of Southern pig-tailed macaques which has been conducted near the Segari Melintang Forest Reserve (SMFR), Perak, Peninsular Malaysia since 2013. Here, two groups of habituated macaques, numbering approximately 80 individuals move between the forest reserve and the oil palm plantations bordering its South-Western edge.
Researchers supervised by Dr Nadine Ruppert of the School of Biological Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia are presently engaged in a 3-year research project entitled “Enhancing oil palm sustainability through primate conservation and stakeholder engagement”. The aim of the project is to improve sustainable practices in Malaysian oil palm plantations by protecting the forest habitat of plantations through forest corridors and stakeholder engagement.
Recent findings that the macaques of this area prey upon rats, which are pests in adjacent oil palm plantations, has helped to nurture receptivity and interest in retaining forest patches and corridors for the ecosystem services they provide. Further research and stakeholder engagement with the agricultural sector in conjunction with these findings could provide the basis for natural habitat conservation within large private landholdings, with positive impact on flora and fauna occurring within these forest patches. This research is supported for its potential to change industry norms and practices to be more tolerant of wildlife ranging from forest patches into plantations.
This THF Research Grant will enable Macaca Nemestrina Project to complete the fieldwork for the final component of six research components of the project. This component will gather data to test the effects of conventional pesticide use (i.e. herbicides and insecticides) in plantations on the health of macaques who frequently feed in plantations. It will also support the continuous engagement of stakeholders of the oil palm sector to design management strategies for pig-tailed macaques around their estates through forest corridors and training of workers to handle macaque conflicts.
This study is expected to show how conventional pesticide use in oil palm plantations affects the health of macaques that are now known to be beneficial biological pest control agents. This project will contribute data to generate willingness among oil palm planters to apply more environmentally-friendly practices, including the tolerance of macaques in plantations and ultimately the preservation of forest patches/corridors and permission for wildlife to move about the plantations. In the long-run, this study may generate new information and fresh perspectives that can influence best practices among the oil palm sector with benefits for both farmers and wildlife.
This research has previously received grants from USM, the Malaysian Ministry of Education, University Leipzig, The Rufford Foundation, and a Disney Conservation Grant.