Innovative ecological research for high-priority aquatic reptiles in Sarawak, Malaysia

Siti Nor Baizurah A.Malik Chang and Anthony Pine

This study aims to conduct necessary field research to provide insight into the ecology of aquatic reptiles in Sarawak, Malaysia. Specifically, this study hopes to shed new light on species presence, habitat use, and movement patterns for the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Tomistoma crocodile (Tomistoma schlegelii), Malaysian giant river turtle (Orlitia borneensis) and Asiatic softshell turtle (Amyda cartilaginea). Through the use of sonar, this study also aims to shed new light on benthic topography, sub-aerial habitat structure and composition, and any relationship these features may have towards the ecology of aquatic reptiles. The purpose of this project is to help create a better understanding for the targeted aquatic reptiles in Sarawak.

Methods for data collection include direct observational surveys and captures, side-scan sonar for river mapping, and radio-telemetry or acoustical tags for tracking tagged reptiles. Captures will be a cooperative effort using standard trapping techniques and will follow strict safety procedures by trained personnel to avoid stress/injury to the animals or field crew.

Expected outcomes include detailed scientific reports and ecological map mosaics, with inputs from sonar and survey data, which can be used by future students, conservationists, and environmental managers to base further research, conservation, and management efforts.