Researching herpetofauna and the impact of tourism on the biodiversity of the Perhentian Islands

When: 26th June – 8th August 2016

Where: The Perhentian Islands. Malaysia

What: A Falmouth and Exeter University student-led expedition to the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia, primarily focused on herpetofauna research and research into the impacts of tourism on island biodiversity.

Who: Students from Falmouth and Exeter Universities

Status: Completed


An ecological expedition aiming to assess the impact of tourism on the abundance and distribution of Herpetofauna species on the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia. Despite the rapid development of tourism on the islands, no attention has been paid to the impacts of this on the surrounding environment.

With a particular focus on herptiles, our small team of determined and experienced students is aiming to deliver urgently needed research. With nations throughout South East Asia developing their islands as both conventional tourism and ecotourism sites, our research will have significant regional ramifications.

FXpedition Perhentian Islands



Expedition leader, William Burton, and Head of Social Media, Joshua Gray, undertook a feasibility expedition to the Perhentian Islands in the summer of 2014. The resulting Perhentian Report 2014 is an excellent document laying out the merits and importance of research on the islands (see attached file).

Crucially, the 2016 expedition offers much more thorough research methodologies, precise research areas and an innovative, robust community aspect. The research completed will be of regional importance, and is a far cry from the qualitative basic research carried out in 2014.

FXpedition Perhentians has the potential to be a long-running expedition project, and 2016 represents the true birth of this concept.



The Perhentian Islands. Malaysia – 5.9167ºN, 102.7333ºE


The overall aim of the expedition is to assess the current abundance and distribution of Herpetofauna and mammal species on the Perhentian islands, and the impact that recent tourism development has had on this. Our scientific objectives are to carry out a thorough assessment of the herpetofauna of Pulau Perhentian Besar, with reference to the wider context of tourist development across south-east Asian islands. This will be achieved via completing transects, carrying out visual encounter surveys, both in the day and at night, and using camera traps to investigate the reported presence of Civets and Mouse Deer on the island.

We plan to add to an existing database of the herpetofauna on the island created by the Coral Cay expedition and build up our own database of all herpetological sightings. The islands are also home to the Sunda Colugo, a severely understudied species of flying lemur. We plan to compare the effectiveness of existing and new observation-only population survey methods for the Sunda Flying lemur on Pulau Perhentian Besar.

FXpedition Perhentian Islands


Few, if any, rigorous studies have ever been carried out in the colugo’s natural habitat, meaning that the research we carry out will be highly valuable to conservation efforts both on the Perhentians, and in the surrounding areas and ecosystems.

This project will contribute to conservation as the data we collect can help us better understand the species on these islands. Additionally, as the islands are geographically isolated from the mainland, there will have been divergence in the species here and this could lead to endemics and possibly even new species on the islands. If this is the case, a strong argument could be formulated for protection of these species and by extension, the habitat.


Billy Burton - Expedition Leader
20, University of Exeter, BSc Geography (2nd year).

Having led a previous expedition to the Perhentian Islands in 2014, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get a bigger, more specialised team out there to study some truly incredible species, especially herps. This year I’ve been fortunate enough to have assembled a top-class team, and with the memories of 2014 lingering in my mind, I have no doubt that this team will produce some fantastic research and media. A Geography student by trade, I am also a trained Expedition Medic and a keen herpetologist. With any luck, I’ll be able to bring a remote sensing UAV to the table too, for mapping purposes- but you’ll have to watch this space for that!

Joshua Gray - Director of Social Media and Photographer
21, Falmouth University, BA Marine and Natural History Photography (3rd year)

I am a third year Marine and Natural History Photography Student at Falmouth University. Having visited the Perhentian Islands twice now I can’t wait to be back. I have spent a few months in Malaysia over the past two years photographing and filming it’s amazing wildlife and have fallen in love with the jungle. I am really looking forward to being involved in some in depth research on the islands this time round. I am also now a qualified diver so hope to get back in the water with the turtles!

Alfie Sheridan - Director of Mammal Research
19, University of Exeter, BSc Zoology (2nd year).

I’m in my 2nd year of a BSc in Zoology, and Director of Mammal Research for FX Perhentians. I’m super excited to get stuck into some Colugo research, to find some snakes, and see what comes up on our camera traps! I’ve been involved in Lemur, Bird, Reptile and Amphibian research in Madagascar for around 3 months in 2014 as well as volunteering on the Marine Turtle Conservation Project in Northern Cyprus last summer.

Ollie Bateman - Director of Herptile Research
21, University of Exeter, BSc Zoology (2nd Year)

I’m a second year zoology student with a keen interest in wildlife disease. I’ve yet to do much travelling, which makes me super excited to be a part of this expedition and explore as much of the flora and fauna of the Perhentians as I can. Having worked hands-on with many different herptiles, I look forward to learning more about the individuals present, and the threats that they face in a bid to aid conservation.

Megan Francis - Head of Fundraising
19, University of Exeter, BSc Zoology (2nd year).

I have previous field research experience in Tanzania and last year I volunteered in North Cyprus at the turtle conservation project. I’m currently in my second year studying Zoology and on the Perhentian islands I’m keen to investigate the impacts of development on species distribution and gain more insight into the Colugo population. Last year I organized the annual family biodiversity event BioBlitz, and I look forward to using this experience to pull off some great fundraising events for our expedition. I am also a keen wildlife photographer, artist and diver.

Eleanor Ryder - Head of photography and Health and Safety Officer
20, Falmouth University, BA Marine and Natural History Photography (3rd Year).

I am a third year Marine and Natural History Photography student, extensive first aider including certified PADI Rescue Diver with AED and Oxygen Administrator qualifications. During the past three years I have been able to combine my passions for photography, conservation and diving to explore the natural world, with marine conservation as my highlight. I am currently completing a project based on marine plastics and micro plastics entering our waters.

Lizzy Salkus - Support Officer and Fundraising Campaigner
19, University of Exeter, BSc Animal behaviour (1st year)

I’m a BSc Animal Behaviour 1st year with a passion for communication and behaviour in social groups. I’d love to study orca or lions in the wild and possibly go into rehabilitation conservation too. I volunteer at Flicka Horse and Donkey sanctuary which is great because the donkeys love cuddles, and I also enjoy rock climbing and playing super smash bros at 8-Bit Gaming Bar to relax during the week. I’m really excited to be going out to the Perhentians and seeing all the amazing wildlife and hopefully some new species!

FXpedition Perhentian Islands 2016


Ecoteer Responsible Travel
Blue Temple Conservation
Exeter University
Falmouth University
University of Malaysia, Terengganu
FXU Herpetological Society
FXU Expedition Society




Royal Geographical Society


Perhentian Report 2014


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And don’t forget to check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Fxpedition Perhentian Islands 2016

About The Author

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