Joshua PandongName: Joshua Pandong
Organization: Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Malaysia Program

Wildlife conservation has been an immense passion for me ever since I started my career with WCS-Malaysia Program in 2005. My first encounter with orang-utans in the wild in April 2006 at Batang Ai National Park: we were ‘ambushed’ by two juvenile orang-utans and caught underneath a broken tree branch thrown at us, became the turning point that grew my attitude from ‘just doing my job’ as a researcher into a sense of awe and respect, attraction and deep affection for the endangered yet very intelligent animal.

Since then, my research interests include developing and implementing methods on orang-utan population surveys; engaging rural and urban communities and school kids; and collaborating with park managements and local authorities on enforcement strategies at the Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (collectively known as ‘BALE’) Landscape and their surrounding areas.

By mid-2015, I will be pursuing my MPhil at the University of Adelaide to study the interconnection in the genetic signature of existing orang-utan populations in Sarawak. As most of my career was spent in the field, lab work and DNA studies will be a new and different experience altogether for me! As a head start, I am currently attached as an Intern at Sarawak Biodiversity Centre under the supervision of Dr Ng Lee Tze and Ms Barbara Ngikoh (Molecular Biology Lab). Among the basic techniques in molecular biology that I will be learning include DNA extraction, gene amplification through PCR, gel electrophoresis, cloning and transformation. I will also be learning how to safely climb trees to collect hair and faecal samples found in orang-utan nests, and find ways to store the samples long term.

I am deeply indebted to Dr Charlie Yeo and his team for providing this opportunity for me to learn (unlearn some and relearn as well!). I am already having a positive learning experience here at SBC in my first week and am looking forward to a rewarding time in the days ahead.