MEME Updates, Aug 2011

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MEME - the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants - is gradually taking off as a research project. In this Newsletter you will find regular updates on our progress in the field, news, and upcoming events.

BROKEN COLLAR Castello, our first collared elephant, broke his GPS collar and stopped transmitting data.

COMPLETED FIELDWORK - Vanitha Ponnusamy, our star social scientist, completed the socioeconomic survey on human-elephant conflict.

NEW MEMBER AND FIELDHOUSE - Steven Lim joins MEME as our Field Project Manager. We also got our first field station.



WHAT IS MEME? MEME stands for the Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants and is a research project that commenced in Mar 2011 and aims to: (1) assess and help to improve the effectiveness of elephant management in Peninsular Malaysia; (2) develop a long-term management strategy based on scientific knowledge of elephant behavior and ecology; and (3) build capacity within Malaysian elephant managers and academic circles to produce a new generation of wildlife researchers and managers of high scientific caliber. MEME is a dynamic and synergistic program whose sustainability depends upon the long term commitment of relevant government agencies, project members, and funding bodies. MEME core partners are the Malaysian Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN), the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC), and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI, USA). We also have key partners at the University of Malaya, James Cook University, and Copenhagen Zoo; and we are open to new additions to the team. MEME is an expensive project. We are privileged to count with financial support from a number of donors that include the Lab of Terrestrial Ecology of the National University of Singapore, Ah Meng Memorial Fund (Singapore), Wildlife Reserves (Singapore), Copenhagen Zoo (Denmark), Friends of the National Zoo (USA), USFWS Asian Elephant Conservation Fund (USA), and our favorite philanthropists and elephant conservationists Ian Mellsop and Kay ‘Mama Gajah’ Arnold. Soon we expect to close a long-term collaborations with an important Malaysian corporation. We sincerely thank this support, without which MEME won’t be a reality. MEME Updates is a bimonthly Newsletter that we will use to inform our friends and supporters about the project’s news and activities. Stay tuned because things are moving fast in MEME! In Kuala Lumpur, 30 Aug 2011, Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, PhD Assistant Professor School of Geography University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus



NEWS FROM OUR COLLARED ELEPHANTS Tracking elephant movements is one of the central components of MEME. Together, PERHILITAN and MEME have already collared three male elephants from the forests of northern Peninsular Malaysia. Castello, is a young bull living in a highly fragmented landscape of Kalimantan. On Mar 26th he became the first of our collared elephants. In the following ~ 3 months Castello stayed in a small patch of forest, which he occasionally left to visit a nearby oil palm plantation. On Jun 19th, we stopped receiving data from Castello’s collar and on Jul 6th we confirmed that the collar is broken and won’t submit any more data. In Sep we will try to locate Castello in his patch of forest and replace the broken collar for a new one, kindly provided by Africa Wildlife Tracking. Cherang and Baung are our two other collared elephants. Both are translocated bulls. Cherang has recently abandoned his previous ranging area in Tasik Kenyir and crossed the State border into Kelantan. Baung is currently moving on the Eastern side of Tasik Kenyir, not far from some human settlements. Besides re-collaring Castello, in Sep-Oct we aim to deploy two more GPS-satellite collars donated by Copenhagen Zoo.



SOCIOECONOMIC SURVEY COMPLETED! As Nasharuddin bin Othman — Director of the National Elephant Conservation Center — puts it, managing elephants is about managing people. In order to mitigate human-elephant conflict (HEC) we need to understand the ecology and behavior of both elephants and people. As part of a collaborative project with the Elephant Conservation Group (ECG, a network of elephant research and conservation projects across Asia) we are conducting questionnaires to understand the perception and attitudes of Malaysian farmers towards elephants and HEC. After preliminary field visits, we chose two areas for our surveys: Gua Musang (in Kelantan) and Kahan (in Johor). The fieldwork was led by Ms Vanitha Ponnusamy, Assistant Professor at the Business School of the University of Nottingham in Malaysia and MEME’s champion on socioeconomic issues! On Aug 20th, Vanitha and her team completed the collection of data in the field, making this the first field project completed under MEME’s umbrella. Now it is time to analyze the data with our ECG partners and understand the implications of our results for a more effective mitigation of HEC in Malaysia and other Asian countries.



WE ARE GROWING! New member - MEME is still a young and developing project. In late Aug — months ahead of the original plan — Steven Lim joined MEME as our Field Project Manager. Steven served 18 years at the Malaysian Armed Forces’ logistics and from Nov 2009 to May 2011 was the head of Belum-Temengor (Perak) Wildlife Protection Unit, under the auspice of WWF-Malaysia. Steven will be based in Terengganu and his first roles will be to collect data on the wild fruits consumed by elephants, take part in GPS-collaring operations, and monitor the behavior of collared elephants. Steven will also facilitate the work of the students and field assistants expected to join MEME in the coming months. We are happy and excited to have Steven among us Welcome onboard Steven!

New field house - With the incorporation of Steven as our first field-based member, we needed a place for him to stay and operate from. As a temporary measure we have rented a little wooden house in Kampung Basung, Terengganu. Our hut is as simple as it looks like (see photo) and is located less than one minute away from the field station of our friends and partners from Rimba.



Because not all is about elephants - with Drs Bickford and Sheridan in Krau, Pahang; Aug 3.

Tracking Castello to assess the condition of his GPS-collar; Jul 6.

HEC questionnaire survey in Kahan, Johor; Aug 13. Setting up MEME’s fieldhouse, Kg Basung, Terengganu; Aug 14.

Training Firmann Aldy’s team in Way Kambas, Sumatra, Indonesia; Aug 25.




Ahem... behind you

Just a little rain; Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu.

Drinking from lianas. Way Kambas, Sumatra, Indonesia

Mushrooms growing in elephant poo

Wild mangosteen (Garcinia sp.) in Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu.

Bufo asper