Apr. 13 - Species living in rainforest fragmented by human development, face ''animal armageddon'' according to a researcher involved in a two decade study in southern Thailand. The study tracked the near-complete extinction of native small mammals on forest islands created by a large hydroelectric reservoir, built in 1986. Rob Muir reports.
The jungle surrounding Chiew Larn Reservoir is alive with sound of gibbons and other wildlife. But on the hundreds of islands created when the area was flooded 28 years ago, it's a diffferent story. A team of scientists led by Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore says the islands are almost devoid of the native species that thrived in the forest before it was flooded. (SOUNDBITE) (English) LUKE GIBSON, BIOLOGIST, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE, SAYING; "With forest fragmentation, the effects are not immediate. So right after you chop a forest into a small piece, much of the biodiversity will still remain but a lot of it may disappear over some period of time." Chiew Larn Reservoir was developed in 1986 to bring hydro-electric power to Thailand. It covers an area of 165 squer kilometres. But Gibson says, after almost thirty years of isolation, the animal life that lived on what were once hilltops in a sprawling valley, but are now islands, have all but disappeared...a situation made worse by their inability to escape the influence of the invasive Malayan field rat which is thriving. .(SOUNDBITE) (English) LUKE GIBSON, BIOLOGIST, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE, SAYING; "And that specie is Rattus tiomanicus (Mala Cyan Field Rat). It's actually not native to these undisturbed forests. It came in from surrounding agricultural areas and it has displaced virtually all native species such as today, we only find a handful of native species on the islands. Everything else has disappeared." Gibson and his team have set up more than 100 camera traps throughout the area to monitor the movement of the larger species that remain. They hope the resulting data will support new regulations governing future development of forest lands and help in the planning of forest corridors where development is scheduled to take place. 29.(SOUNDBITE) (English) LUKE GIBSON, BIOLOGIST, NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF SINGAPORE, SAYING; "I would hope that this research will really highlight the value of large expanses of forest and also, will highlight one of the costs of these hydro-electric reservoirs." However, for many species he says, the research has come too late.