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Three ladies climb the sacred mountain

Posted on 24-09-2012 by Redactie

This is the very first time we (Nivaarani, Aqilah & Anati) have explored Mount Kinabalu, the Sacred Mountain. Heres a short account of the journey by three sumandak (=ladies in the Dusun language). All three of us are doing our MSc. at Universiti Malaysia Sabah and are fortunate to be able to participate in the Kinabalu - Crocker Range Scientific Expedition. Accustomed to the tropical warmth of Kota Kinabalu, we were surprised by the wind and cold at Kinabalu Headquarters its like another country!

Workers and soldiers of the termite genus Hospitalitermes walking in line. Photo by Nivaarani Arumugan

Workers and soldiers of the termite genus Hospitalitermes walking in line. Photo by Nivaarani Arumugan

I, Nivaarani, am working on the taxonomy of termites, specifically the genus Bulbitermes. This is a common genus in the forest of Sabah. The last identification key was published in 1981 by Thapa, however since then many new morphospecies have been discovered that do not fit in the key. My aim is to clean up the taxonomy and produce a new identification key with clear illustrations. There are four types of termites in a colony: the queen & king (they produce the offspring), workers (they feed other termites and serve the queen), and the soldiers (they protect the nest from enemies). In fact the soldiers can really function as bodyguards. Here is a picture of workers carrying wood to the nest, while being guarded on left and right side by alert soldiers. Its just like VIPs carrying something precious being guarded by men in black. Its remarkable that termites are such small creatures, yet together they form a large organism. Humans could learn a lot from termites.

Damselfly Stenagrion dubium. Photo by Aqilah Afendy

Damselfly Stenagrion dubium. Photo by Aqilah Afendy

I, Aqilah, am conducting a MSc. project on the diversity of dragonflies (Odonata) in Kalabakan, Tawau. There are over 300 species in Sabah, so this is a big task. All the data I collect will be submitted to the SAFE (Sustainability of Altered Forest Ecosystem www.safeproject.net ) project. This is baseline data before the Kalabakan forest is fragmented. There are plans to log the forest in a fragmented pattern and plant oil palm trees. I am looking at the interaction between water quality and species distribution. Everything is new for me in the expedition, thanks to the help of Rory Dow and Jan van Tol, I could identify the great diversity of my collection. The trails have been challenging as I always work in low land area. It is a great and fun expedition as I have to fight and overcome the obstacles from nature which has made me stronger and tougher.

Camponatus sp. ant nest in dead wood. Photo by Anati Sawang

Camponatus sp. ant nest in dead wood. Photo by Anati Sawang

I, Anati, am doing research on ants, specifically on the taxonomy of the genus Pachycondyla in Sabah. Ive been searching for ant nest sites rotten wood, soil, leaf litter, and leaves. This method is very interesting because I can take the opportunity to observe the behaviour and discover how the world of ants work. During this expedition, I got the chance to collect many species of ants from different places under Sabah Park conservation areas. My first observation is that the diversity of ant species is higher in the low land areas compared to high land areas. Joining this expedition has been a very interesting experience for me, its given me the opportunity to explore many places.

All three of us feel so lucky to meet new people and share knowledge with different people with different fields of expertise. We are all very different people, with different specialities, but we are all enjoying the beautiful nature together. Hopefully, more expedition like this can be held which gather a lot of expertise to discover the secret of nature. Thanks to Sabah Parks, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and lecturers of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Assoc.Prof.Dr. Homathevi Rahman and Dr.Bakhtiar Effendi Yahya, to give us this golden opportunity.

Nivaarani, Aqilah and Anati

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