Researchers readying for 2015 Bukit Teraja expedition

National 2 minutes, 16 seconds

BELAIT

RESEARCHERS under Universiti Brunei Darussalam’s (UBD) Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER) recently began a three-day reconnaissance survey at Bukit Teraja to prepare the groundwork for a full-fledged expedition next year.

Students and lecturers, led by guides from the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources’ Forestry Department scoured the lower areas of Bukit Teraja at a height of approximately 900ft above sea level, gathering information and specimen samples of earth, water, flora and fauna on their first day.

The information is expected to help establish preliminary scientific baseline data necessary to facilitate 2015’s expedition by researchers with the International Consortium of Universities for the Study of Biodiversity and the Environment (iCUBE). Their ambitious excursion will take place about five years after the watershed surveys of Panaga Natural History Society (PNHS) in 2010 and 2011.

“This information will be shared with our iCube partners... because they come from other universities outside Brunei so they don’t know the site as they’ve not been here,” said IBER Deputy Director Dr Rahayu Sukmaria Sukri, leading the survey.

Commenting on existing information from PNHS, Dr Rahayu said that it was mainly focused on the lower Teraja areas.

“Today’s (June 4) survey focused on the higher elevation areas and along some of the ridges of Bukit Teraja and the survey team has identified possible trail systems for the expedition proper. In contrast, for tomorrow (June 5), we are aiming to survey lower elevation areas where we are likely to find different habitats and consequently, different associated plants and animals,” she said.

She added that the PNHS survey lacked experts in several areas and the survey would fill this gap, for example with experts on invertebrates and taxonomy, while another aim of the survey was to identify possible trails.

Asked of expectations, the deputy director spoke of Teraja as one of the most hyper-diverse sites in Borneo: “There is always a possibility that we will record new species. We will certainly register new records for Brunei as not all areas have been surveyed properly. The interesting thing about the Teraja area is that it holds a lot of Bruneian and Borneoan endemics especially in terms of plant species.”

Muhd Ariffin Abd Kalat, assistant forestry officer with the Forestry Department at Sg Liang, said that the area received about two to three such research visits annually.

“The Teraja area is part of the Labi Forest Reserve that is more than 500,000 hectares in area. Our objective here is protection and conservation so we are also looking forward to the expedition next year.”

The Labi Hills forest reserve in Ulu Belait has two protected areas: Bukit Teraja and Ulu Mendaram. Both are covered under the tri-nation Heart of Borneo conservation project.

The Brunei Times