Taxon Expeditions: Where you can be Darwin too

on 11th July 2017
Stork-billed Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Stork-billed Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

Maliau Basin Conservation Area on Borneo, affectionately known as “Sabah’s Lost World” is one of the few remaining untouched wilderness areas in the world. With over 290 bird species of which 26% are threatened or near-threatened according to IUCN, Maliau has become a global hotspot for the conservation of bird biodiversity. Species that may be seen here include all 8 species of hornbills found on Borneo, Bornean Bristlehead, Blue-headed Pitta, Black-headed Pitta, and Bulwer’s Pheasant. Besides outstanding bird diversity, MBCA hosts several rare mammals and numerous species of invertebrates among which new species are yet to be discovered.

A new organisation, Taxon Expeditions, organises expeditions for non-biologists to Maliau. But unlike other ecotourism outfits, the participants are guided by international experts through all the steps of real scientific research. Together, they discover, name, and publish completely new species of wild animals.

Rhinoceros (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Rhinoceros Hornbill (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

During a 10-day stay at a field study centre in the heart of Borneo’s rainforest, participants receive a solid tropical biology training from seasoned field biologists. Then, they explore the forest to look for tiny animals like snails and beetles. The collected samples are then mounted, photographed, databased, DNA-sequenced, and digitized and deposited in the Borneensis Collection of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. There, they become part of a permanent reference collection for Borneo-based biodiversity conservationists and scientists.

Blue-eared Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)
Blue-eared Kingfisher (Photo credit: K Hendriks)

This way, participants go home with the unique experience of having discovered and named new species of wildlife themselves, and to have contributed to the documentation of Borneo’s threatened biodiversity. Over time, we will build a resource for other researchers who are working throughout Borneo to understand the impact of deforestation but are often hampered by the lack of online databases of organisms tinier than birds and mammals.

Taxon Expeditions
Leiden, The Netherlands
4th July 2017

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behavior through photography and videography to a wider audience.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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