Saturday, 30 June 2007

Rare population of Land Rovers discovered

During a recent spell of Kalimantan field work, our survey team came across this hitherto undiscovered population of Land Rovers (Terraanglica perigrina Wilks 1947) (see note below, and photo on left). Quietly resting in the shade, these survivors of an EU-sponsored aid project, became isolated from the main populations in Britain, Australia and India when dispersal barriers prevented the flow of spare parts.

Attempts by the local government to translocate the population and revive genetic exchange with other populations were thwarted by legal stipulations saying that none of these Land Rovers were to be sold or handed over to other institutions.

Global Land Rover populations have declined significantly over the last 30 years. After a high of about 53,000 in the mid 1970s, less than 25,000 now remain, distributed across a highly fragmented metapopulation. Global climate change and increasing competition from low-emission vehicles are threatening the species.

When we encountered this group of Land Rovers it displayed rarely seen mass parallel parking behaviour. Normally this occurs only among juveniles and very young adults, generally before they leave the herd to establish their own home range. It is unclear why the Berau adults would have reverted to this behaviour. We are consulting a specialist now, and the initial suggestion is that this is a non-breeding population, possibly consisting of frustrated males only. Survival chances would in that case appear low.

We hope that this experience will prevent similar misguided species translocations. Our hopes are high. Despite our dependence on US funding, TNC have so far steered clear of introducing the invasive Hummer (Frutex fremens Schwarzenegger 1991). Instead we have focused on effectively managing populations of the indigenous Indonesian Kijang (Paramuntiacus toyotanus sondaicus), a subspecies of the typical Japanese Kijang (P. t. toyotanus).

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