Postgrad's project probes the Proboscis monkey’s provincial prospects

Posted by mjs76 at May 24, 2010 05:10 PM |
Leicester student wins geography prize for conservation research.
Postgrad's project probes the Proboscis monkey’s provincial prospects

image: Wikipedia

Khairunnisa Haji Ibrahim, a postgraduate student in our Department of Geography, has received the annual Masters Dissertation Prize of the Royal Geographical Society's Planning and Environment Research Group (PERG).

The prize is awarded for “the best dissertation on any issue relating to environmental planning, policy and governance.” Khairunnisa’s MSC dissertation was on ‘Assessing proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) habitat along Sungai Brunei, Brunei Darussalam, using remote sensing and geographical information system.’

The distinctively large-nosed proboscis monkey occurs only on the island of Borneo. Northern Borneo is part of Malaysia, southern Borneo is part of Indonesia; Brunei Darussalam is a small country on the north-west side of the island and the Sungai Brunei (Brunei River) is a short but ecologically and economically important waterway which flows through the capital city, Bandar Seri Bagawan.

Once thought to only inhabit coastal areas, proboscis monkeys are now known to be more widespread across the island – but this means that encroachment into the species’ habitat has a greater effect than previously thought. It is believed that there are now only about 7,000 proboscis monkeys in the wild, despite conservation efforts, and the species is classed as ‘endangered’.

Proboscis monkeys have a highly specialised digestive system which only allows them to eat certain seeds, leaves and unripe fruit found in the jungles and swamps of Borneo. Not only does this require them to forage over a large area, it also makes it almost impossible to keep the species in captivity. Only Singapore Zoo has had any success at maintaining a captive colony and at the last count they had just 17 of the animals.

The organisers of the PERG Masters Dissertation Prize noted that Khairunnisa’s work used remote sensing to develop new assessment techniques for habitat destructions and showed "both great skill in the execution of this task but also sensitivity to the limits and challenges of the technology". They also said that the dissertation’s "exceptional achievement is to marry this technical ability to a sophisticated appreciation of how this kind of technical approach to conservation fits more broadly with the social, economic and political challenges".