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Piloting close-range remote sensing of endangered Borneo Pygmy Elephants using photographs ecotourists share via social media

Walker, O., Daymond, T., Chan, J.K.L., Teo, A.C.K., Newsome, D. and Simpson, G.D. (2019) Piloting close-range remote sensing of endangered Borneo Pygmy Elephants using photographs ecotourists share via social media. Preprints .

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Abstract

This pilot study explores the potential of using a citizen science approach for sourcing volunteered geographic information via social media to research wildlife tourism interactions with endangered Borneo Pygmy Elephants on the lower Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Malaysia. Such information is critical if the lower Kinabatangan region is to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through a sustainable tourism industry based around viewing the pygmy elephants. Guests and guides from the Sukau Rainforest Lodge were encouraged to become close-range remote sensors by sharing geotagged photographs of pygmy elephant sightings on Flickr. A ten week on-ground trail generated 247 photographs shared by 17 individual contributors with approximately two-thirds (65%) of photographs being georeferenced for the time and location of the elephant sighting. Plotting those sighting to explore the vegetation matrix (i.e. remnant forest or oil palm plantation) showed almost three-quarter (73%) of the sightings occurred within 1 km of an oil palm plantation. Of greater concern is that one in two sightings (50%) along the river occurred within the 500 m of an oil palm planation, which is inside the riparian buffer that the Sabah Government recommended for conservation of the elephants in their Lower Kinabatangan range. This study therefore demonstrates proof of concept for this research method and its further application at the nexus of wildlife conservation and sustainable ecotourism research.

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: MDPI AG
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/53280
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