Tracking the symphony: Using the Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM) to determine the occurrence, distribution and behaviour of small apes at Kenyir Rainforest, Terengganu

Institution: Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, Cornell University, New York, USA

Dr Aini Hasanah bt. Abd Mutalib is a research officer (Q41) at the Institute of Tropical Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu. Small apes function as an important agent of seed dispersal, to ensure the regeneration of forests especially in the regions of South and Southeast Asia. 

Aini proposes a professional attachment with Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Bioacoustics (CCB) to study the bioacoustics of small apes such as white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar) and siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus) that thrives in the lush Kenyir rainforest, of Terengganu. These two species are classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List, alongside the other three Malaysian small ape species, making it imperative for us to provide better protection for these species and their habitat. As small apes are elusive and extremely dependent on trees, assessing their habitat occupancy by standard methods, such as line transects, is tricky. These creatures also showcase their species- and sex-specific vocalization, especially in the mornings. 

In this project, Aini will asses the occurrence and distribution of small apes in the Kenyir rainforest by deploying bioacoustics recorders, which is known as Passive Acoustic Monitoring (PAM). Bioacoustics recorders are used to capture the sound of small apes (and other wildlife), which will be analysed to determine their occurrence and behaviour. At the same time, arboreal camera traps will be deployed to further verify the occupancy of the small apes in the study plots. Habitat parameters of the vegetation plot, such as tree height, diameter at breast height, and canopy structures will be measured to compare between the occupied and non- occupied vegetation plots.

The findings of this study will identify habitat parameters that predict small ape occupancy and calculate group abundance in Kenyir. She will also ensure the collaboration and involvement between local communities, local government agencies and NGOs with the research team. 


Local knowledge can be highlighted and empowered, at the same time balancing socioeconomic growth with conservation of natural resources. Optimistically, this project will be important to successfully plan and implement small ape and habitat conservation management of the Kenyir rainforest in the long run.

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