Pak Atan (right) and his family members could not hold back their tears as they held the dead body of Si Tenang, the baby dugong, back in 1999.

Malaysia: Si Tenang, the little Dugong that stole our hearts
By Andrew Sia, 24th June 2017;

The case of Si Tenang the baby Dugong (Dugong dugon) captured national attention in 1999.

Atan Hussin (Pak Atan), a fisherman in southern Johor, had accidentally caught a baby Dugong in his net. Finding that it had been bruised, he decided to take care of it at his kelong (a floating raft house with nets). He and his family grew fonder of this baby marine mammal and named it Si Tenang.

However, within two weeks, the authorities asked him to release the Dugong into the wild. Pak Atan did so, but he kept looking out for Si Tenang, hoping that it would come back to visit him.

But within 48 hours, he was heartbroken when Si Tenang was found dead after it had been tangled up in other nets (Dugongs are mammals that need to regularly surface to breathe).

The public should know that Dugongs are facing many threats that may lead to their extinction, underlined Dr Leela Rajamani, a dugong specialist from Universiti Sains Malaysia.

In Johor, the main problems are rapid coastal development, accidental entanglement in nets, boat collisions, and destructive fishing methods (such as trawling and rawai longlines full of hooks). In Sabah, Leela said there is the added problem of fish bombing.

Seagrass specialist Dr Jillian Ooi of Universiti Malaya said the Dugong is listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that certain Dugong populations are greatly reduced in size, hurt by human activities, and in danger of local extinction.

On April 21, a Dugong was found dead at Pulau Tinggi near Mersing.

“The Fisheries Department thinks it was probably caught in a longline or rawai because there were hook scars on it,” said Ooi.

Rawai are floating death traps which can stretch for hundreds of metres and have up to 2,000 hooks.

“This type of fishing gear needs to be prohibited because they are so dangerous to marine life. The worst damage occurs when the longline breaks off and floats around in the sea, cruelly hooking anything that lies in its path, including Turtles, Sharks and Dugongs.”

Leela explained that Dugong conservation in Malaysia took off after the Si Tenang incident.

“The Government allocated funds for research on these creatures and on seagrass. Expertise development was also one of the priorities. I benefited from this with an ample research grant and PhD scholarship. The Department of Fisheries has also drafted a Dugong management plan.”

But she noted that much more needs to be done. For starters, more research is needed on seagrass, since this is the main source of food for Dugongs.

“Seagrass has not been properly mapped out except in small areas of Sabah and the eastern islands of Johor. So there is a lack of information for a proper Dugong conservation plan.”

She added that issues remain with the enforcement of existing legislation, for instance, not allowing trawlers to come closer than five nautical miles to marine parks.

“Dugongs are a charismatic, flagship species. They act as an umbrella species to conserve other species in the habitat where they live.”

She stressed the need for education programmes about Dugongs targeted at different audiences such as corporations, rural people (who live close to Dugongs) and city folk.

“I hope that more Malaysians will develop a sense of pride and compassion towards these gentle creatures.”


Malaysia: Dead Dugong washes ashore near Mersing
By Mohd Farhaan Shah, 21st April 2017;

The carcass of an adult Dugong (Dugong dugon) has been discovered at Pulau Tinggi near Mersing.

Villagers found the mammal, with blood oozing out of its eyes, along the coast near Kampung Tanjung Balang at 5pm on Thursday evening.

Johor Health, Environment, Education, and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat confirmed the discovery, describing it as a huge loss to the state’s marine life.

He pointed out that the state Veterinary Department together with Rantau Abang Fisheries Research Institute would conduct a post-mortem on the carcass.

“We want to find out the cause of its death, whether it died naturally or otherwise.

"From 2015, we have found four Dugong carcasses in the area,” he said.

Ayub also pointed out that the state government was in the midst of gazetting the area as a Dugong sanctuary to protect the species.

Source: The Star

Fig. 1: Roadkill specimen, Jemaluang, Johor. © Tan Heok Hui
Inset: Example from Sungai Bantang, Johor (2015). © Nick Baker

Malayan Porcupine Hystrix brachyura at Jemaluang, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia

Location: Jemaluang, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Habitat: Metalled road, next to lowland swamp forest and primary forest.

Date and time: 29 August 2003, 21:45 hrs.

Description of record: An adult (head and body length 60 cm) was found on a metalled road, a victim of traffic road kill (Fig. 1.). The subject appeared to have been crushed in the abdominal region, as indicated by the naked patch extending from its back to its abdomen, and with its innards extruding from the posterior end. The larger quills had become detached from its body.

Remarks: The colour of this specimen appears brownish, in contrast to ‘typical’ examples in which the anterior part of the body is black and sharply in contrast with the white posterior. A typical example from Sungai Bantang, Johor, is shown in the inset to Fig. 1. Similar brownish specimens also appear to exist in Singapore’s central forests, 80 km to the south of Jemaluang (N. Baker, pers. comm.).

Shepherd & Shepherd (2012) summarize the range of this species as “Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia [Kalimantan, Sumatra], Laos, Malaysia [Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak], Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Also found in Bangladesh, China, India and Nepal”. The state of Johor, Peninsular Malaysia thus lies in the southern part of its range.


  • Shepherd C. R. & Shepherd, L. A. (2012). A Naturalist’s Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. John Beaufoy Publishing, 176 pp.

Source: Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records 2016: 108-109

Photograph by Fei Li

Recent amphibians and reptiles observed at
Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia

Location: Bunker Trail, Gunung Panti Forest Reserve, Kota Tinggi District, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia

Habitat: Lowland secondary dipterocarp forest and freshwater swamp-forest with shallow streams.

Date and time: 27 June 2016, 07:30-12:00hrs & 17:30-21:00 hrs.

Identity of subjects and descriptions of records: Malayan Krait, Bungarus candidus (Reptilia: Squamata: Elapidae), one roadkill adult found near the entrance of Bunker Trail in the early morning, Fig. 13.

Remarks: The records presented here summarize a recent rapid herpetofaunal survey (8 hours) of Panti Forest. Among the fourteen recorded species two reptiles, Aphaniotis fusca and Bungarus candidus, were not recorded during an overnight survey undertaken in 2002 (Lim & Leong, 2016), or by more extensive surveys conducted in
2006 and 2008 (Chan et al. 2010).


  • Chan K. O., Grismer, L.L., Matsui, M., Nishikawa, K., Wood Jr., P.L., Grismer, J.L., Belabut, D. & Norhayati, A. (2010). Herpetofauna of Gunung Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. Tropical Life Sciences Research. 21 (1): 71-82.
  • Lim, K. K. P. & Leong, T. M. (2016). Herpetofauna observed at Panti Forest Reserve, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records. 2016: 4-7.

Source: Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records 2016: 105-107

Photos: Berita Harian

Malaysia: Second Dugong found dead in Johor
9th May 2016;

The carcass of a young Dugong (Dugong dugon) was found floating in the sea near Kampung Pendas Laut after getting caught in a fishing net.

Fishermen spotted two Dugong, believed to be a mother and its kid, on Thursday.

A few hours later, the carcass of a young Dugong emerged and was spotted floating in the sea.

A fisherman from the village, Azman Adan, said the Dugong was found floating near a mega development project.

“The Dugong, weighing about 60kg, was already dead, so the fishermen brought the carcass back to shore.

"We immediately alerted the Fisheries Department and handed the carcass to them,” he said.

State Fisheries Department director Zamani Omar said that a team of officers went to the location after being informed of the sighting.

“The Dugong suffered injuries after it got caught between some fishing nets.

"We will conduct a post-mortem first,” he added.

This is the second dead Dugong sighting this year after the first carcass was found washed ashore at Pantai Tanjung Logok, near Kota Tinggi in February.

Source: The Star

Photograph by Noel Thomas

Recent sighting records of five bat species from
Gunung Arong, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia

Identity of subject Fawn Roundleaf Bat (Hipposideros cervinus) (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Hipposideridae).

Location: Jalan Air Papan – Tanjung Resang, Gunung Arong Forest.

Habitat: Lowland, tall secondary forest.

Date and time: 26 March 2016, 20:00 hrs.

Description of record: An intact, freshly deceased Roundleaf Bat was found on the road shoulder of Jalan Air Papan – Tanjung Resang, a two-lane metalled road which dissects Gunung Arong Forest Reserve. The carcass had no visible evidence of injury or sickness. Measurements were taken as follows : head-body length 55.8 mm, tail length 26.0 mm, forearm length 50.5mm, tibia length 20.0 mm, ear height 13.9 mm.

Remarks: Based on the shape of the noseleaf , which has two lateral leaflets (with the intermediate leaflet narrower than the posterior noseleaf), and on the suite of measurements, this bat is identified as Hipposideros cervinus.

Hipposideros cervinus is common in primary, lowland dipterocarp forest at Krau Wildlife Reserve (KWR), Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia (Kingston et al, 2006). KWR is 230 km northwest of Gunung Arong. The range of this species is extensive: in addition to Peninsular Malaysia it also occurs in Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippines, eastern Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia (Francis, 2008).


  • Francis, C. M. (2008). A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd. 392 pp.
  • Kingston, T., Lim, B. L. & Akbar, Z. (2006). Bats of Krau Wildlife Reserve. Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. 145 pp.

Source: Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records 2016: 67-71

Photos: Berita Harian

By Kathleen Ann Kili, 5th May 2016;

A Dugong (Dugong dugon) carcass was found floating in the sea near Kampung Pendas Laut, Johor.

Several fishermen spotted the carcass near a mega development project while they were out at sea at about 9am on Thursday.

Johor Fisheries Department director Zamani Omar said a team of officers is at the scene to investigate.

“I have yet to receive a report from my officers,” he said.

“I have also instructed them to determine the cause of death,” he said, adding that the department will investigate whether the Dugong died from disease or was hit by a vessel.

Source: The Star

Photographs by Nick Baker

Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis) at Air Papan, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia

Location: Air Papan Beach, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Habitat: Coastal, shallow marine

Date and time: 03 June 2014, 18:45 hrs.

Description of observation: : A dead specimen, with an estimated total length of 2.0 metres, was observed floating in the sea, 100 metres from the beach. Over the next 30 minutes it was pushed towards the shore by wave action, and then finally coming to rest on the beach (Fig. 2.). A group of local people showed interest in the dead dolphin, but did not touch the body (Fig. 1).

Remarks: The subject is identified as Sousa chinensis based on the size and triangular shape of its dorsal fin, and on its relatively long, slender beak. The colour of this specimen is grey dorsally, and white ventrally: the species can vary considerably in colour from grey to pure white to pink, and can grow to 2.4-2.8 metres in length (Francis, 2008).

The specimen showed no obvious external injury, however a constant stream of blood was seen issuing from the corner of the mouth, suggesting it had only recently died from illness or trauma (Fig. 3.). The body appeared fresh, and exhibited no smell.

Sousa chinensis occurs in warmer waters of the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans, as well as coastal waters in the South China Sea. Jefferson & Smith (2015) list the range countries as follows: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo), Malaysia, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam (records from other countries are considered as unconfirmed or extralimital). Peninsular Malaysia therefore lies in the heart of the range of this species.

Air Papan is a sandy beach two kilometres in length facing northeastwards to the South China Sea. It is bounded by rocky headlands to the northwest and southeast. It is a popular holiday beach, with a profile that appears to be gently sloping.


  • Francis, C. M. (2008). A Field Guide to the Mammals of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd. 392 pp.
  • Jefferson, T. A. & Smith, B. D. (2015). Re-assessment of the conservation status of the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Sousa chinensis) using the IUCN Red List Criteria. Advances in Marine Biology: Humpback Dolphins (Sousa spp.): Current Status and Conservation, Part 2. 73: 1-21.

Source: Southeast Asia Vertebrate Records 2016: 58-60

Malaysia: Of pregnant tigers and sad whales

By Quek Yew Aun, 23rd February 2016;

February 2016 has been a grim month so far for Malaysian wildlife. In a span of less than one week, we have lost members of two very recognisable species ― a Malayan Tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) and a Bryde’s Whale (either Balaenoptera brydei or Balaenoptera edeni). Both died under very different circumstances; the former upon collision with a multi purpose vehicle while attempting to cross the East Coast Expressway 2 while the latter’s cause of death has yet to be confirmed.

Tigers and Whales along with a select few species are what conservationists call charismatic species ― animals unique enough to capture the attention of the general public. The reason for this is still unclear. Some may draw their charm from being large in size like the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), while others rely on their unconventional life histories, like the male gestating Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.). More often than not, charismatic species are used as de facto symbols for wildlife conservation.

Although both fauna possess these charismatic values, the story of how they died could not be more different. One tells of the gradual loss of Malaysia’s most iconic species in the face of development while the other, how a lack of evidence-based statements can lead to public confusion.

The tale of the Malayan Tiger

This year itself, we have taken six Tigers from the wild. Aside from the three (mother and cubs) lost in the accident, two were poached in January while another Tiger was found in a Wild Boar trap earlier this week. Six might not seem a large number but considering the Tiger population in Malaysia is estimated to be between 250-340, we have already removed 2.4 per cent of all Malayan Tigers this year alone!

Returning to the incident with the pregnant Tigress, I am pleased that the Minister of Environmental and Natural Resource Datuk Wan Junaidi has announced measures to prevent more such accidents in future including the proposal to build 37 eco-viaducts. However, I hope this will not turn out to be just a knee-jerk reaction in response to public outcry. More importantly, the incorporation of eco-viaducts should not be an excuse to build more roads.

According to Dr Reuben Clements of Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, eco-viaducts will undoubtedly reduce the impact of existing roads on wildlife. The very presence of roads, however, allows accessibility and hence intensifying further threat to wildlife like forest conversion, poaching and illegal trade.

In short, we have to build fewer new roads cutting through forests and focus on building viaducts for wildlife hot spots along the staggering 49,935 km of federal roads. If nothing is done in the near future, we are at risk of relegating Malaysia’s most iconic species to just adorning the covers of our passports.

A beached Whale

The story of the Bryde’s Whale that was found on Malaysian shores is indeed a tragic one. It was first sighted struggling in the shallow waters of Pontian last Monday. Local fishermen managed to tow the poor creature to deeper waters after several attempts. However, its carcass was found a day later about 100 kilometres away near the river mouth of Sungai Sarang Buaya.

In a video report by StarTV, three different reasons were given by “experts” as to why the Whale died. To make matters worse, the whale was misidentified as a Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) when it was actually a Bryde’s Whale from the presence of three parallel ridges on its head.

In the video, a fishery officer explained that the Whale might have been under emotional duress and beached itself after being separated from its pod. A local university professor then theorised that shallower waters could have disrupted Whale migration patterns leading to an eventual stranding. Lastly the Johor branch president of the Malaysian Nature Society pinned the death on disorientation from the noise of heavy shipping in the narrow Malacca Straits.

In response to these claims, MareCet, the only local marine mammal NGO run by actual marine mammalogists, rebutted these statements in a Facebook post. According to them, this particular species of Whale is usually solitary, do not undertake seasonal migrations and do not use echolocation for communication hence would not be affected by shipping vessels. The barrage of inconsistent information is an example of how little we know about marine species inhabiting Malaysian waters and the need for evidence-based statements in reporting.

With that, I caution readers against totally believing reports on wildlife especially the ones that pop up on social media. Alas, only recently the Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) was hunted en masse for supposedly being able to cure HIV/AIDS. Ideally, it is good practice to fact check with something as simple as a Google search.

A bright side?

Taking a step back from the causes of death, both cases managed to garner a sizable following on social media. Is this a positive sign for Malaysian wildlife? Or are we Malaysians merely keyboard warriors looking for the next sensational story? I personally believe that everyone can and should have a part to play in conservation, from doing something as simple as spreading awareness on Whale species nomenclature to actively campaigning against the building of new roads that cut through forest.

In the immortal words of Winston Churchill: “Never let a crisis go to waste”, I hope that these twin tragedies will galvanise action to ensure a future for our wildlife, be it terrestrial or marine.

Source: Malay Mail

Malaysia: Of pregnant tigers and sad whales

The carcass of a Manatee Dugong was found washed ashore at a beach in Tanjung Logok here around 2.50pm today.
Photo: Johor Fisheries Department

Malaysia: Dead Manatee Dugong found on Tanjung Logok beach
By Halim Said, 2016;

The carcass of a Manatee (Trichechus sp.) (NOT a Manatee, it’s a Dugong!) was found washed ashore at a beach in Tanjung Logok here around 2.50pm today.

According to Johor Fisheries Department director Munir Mohd Nawi, the carcass of the animal measured 2.33m in length with a diameter of 0.84m.

Munir said the Manatee Dugong carcass was found by villagers in the area who informed the department about the finding.

“The Manatee Dugong was believed to have died before being washed ashore as it had started decomposing. The stomach area of the animal was already rotten,” he said.

He said an investigation paper will be opened to investigate the cause of death of the Manatee Dugong and why it had washed ashore in Johor.

This is the second deep sea marine creature and endangered marine life that was found on the beaches of Johor after a Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) (NOT a Sei Whale, it was a Bryde’s Whale!) was found beached on Pantai Semerah beach in Batu Pahat, after it was first spotted in Pontian.

Source: New Straits Times

It’s honestly quite ridiculous (and incredible) that the original article in the New Straits Times identifies this Dugong (Dugong dugon) carcass as a Manatee (Trichechus), which aren’t found in Southeast Asia at all. Also, come on, Dugongs aren’t “deep sea” creatures; they’re inhabitants of shallow coastal waters.

I’m wondering whether these errors are coming from uninformed journalists, or whether the Johor Fisheries Department are the ones dispensing such misinformation. Although since the animal was correctly identified in Bernama, Malaysia’s national new agency, it’s likely that this was an error on the part of the New Straits Times.