Wednesday, August 6, 2008

postheadericon Project Update August 2008

(i) Camera trapping:
Phase 1 of camera trapping in the primary forest of the Danum Valley Conservation area revealed the presence of the apparently extremely rare Bornean bay cat, the first confirmed record of this species in this protected area, and the forth ever photograph of this felid in the wild. No other felids were photo captured during this 6 month operation.

Phase 2 involved camera trapping along abandoned logging roads and trails within an area of good quality selectively logged forest –the Ulu Segama Forest Reserve. Felid photo captures included bay cat, marbled cat, leopard cat and clouded leopard, although the capture rates of the bay and marbled cats proved to be too low to conduct any quantitative density analysis. Photo capture rates of Bornean clouded leopards, however, proved to be sufficiently high to enable the implementation of a density estimation utilising a capture-mark-recapture framework. This has provided the first scientifically robust density estimate for clouded leopards on Borneo and
indeed the first for this species.

During Phase 3 we have returned to the primary forest to re-attempt to conduct a density estimate survey of the clouded leopard. With a greater number of camera traps, thanks in part to the International Trust for Nature Conservation, we have been able to survey at a significantly higher camera density and over a wider area than Phase 1. To date we have collected a further 3 photo capture events of the bay cat and a further 3 of the marbled cat, which is helping us to build a picture of these felid’s activity and habitat use. We photo-captured 3 individual clouded leopards in this area, on several occasions; however, the photo-capture rate is again too low to
perform a capture-recapture analysis.

In the forthcoming stages of camera trapping we plan to move the cameras to an area of heavily logged forest, in which the logging operation has only recently ceased (Dec ’07). This area is much more representative of Borneo’s remaining logged forest, and will provide an excellent area in which to conduct a clouded leopard density estimate. Later phases will entail camera trapping within the Ulu Segama forest (as in Phase 2) at a much higher camera density, which will enable us to conduct a density estimate of the leopard cat and other small individually identifiable mammalian carnivores. Density estimates for these species will also be obtained using molecular scatology techniques, which will enable us to investigate the relative efficacy of these two techniques.

(ii) Live trapping and radio tracking.
Live trapping has now begun in earnest and on 31st January 2008 we successfully trapped and radio collared a female sub-adult Sundaland (Bornean) clouded leopard; this is the first time this species has been radio collared. VHF radio-tracking has proved to be difficult but possible in this heavily forested and rugged terrain. After several months of tracking the female clouded leopard home range had exceeded 20 km2 (100% MCP), although the increase in range size following sequential locations has not reached an asymptote, suggesting that the actually home range is larger. The female began to move in a northerly direction until the signal was lost. To date we have been unable to locate this female and we are now preparing to conduct an aerial search using a helicopter.

In the last 2 months we have also been successful in capturing and tagging 6 leopard cats (4 males, 2 females), and we are successfully collecting excellent data on four of these individuals. Two individuals are proving to be difficult to locate, but these have only been collared for a few weeks.

The live trapping operation has now closed, and it is envisaged that we will reopen the traps in September ’08.