Thursday, May 21, 2009

postheadericon Mystery of missing leopard cats solved!

In May 2008 we captured our first leopard cat, an adult male, along the gravel road that leads to the Danum Valley Field Centre. LC M1, aka ‘Eddie’, was radio-tagged and tracked successfully over the next 4 months in the dense secondary forest of the Ulu Segama FR, moving a few hundreds metres each day and exhibiting a homerange of around 2km2, typical of our leopard cats. On the 13th of September 2008 we located Eddie resting close to an old logging road, but, as it would turn out, this would be the last day we would find him.

In January 2009 we captured our 5th male leopard cat, with the help of Zara, from the Felidae Conservation Fund (FCF), and Paloma, our temporary vet from Peru. LC M5 became the first leopard cat ever to be collared with a (rather expensive) GPS collar, courtesy of FCF. This collar consists of a radio transmitter, but unlike standard radio collars this collar also records its position at predefined periods using the on-board GPS receiver, storing the data on the collar itself. To access the data we need to track the cat using the on-board standard radio transmitter, wait for the collar to fall off (via a fabricated weak point in the collar material), and then manually download the data to a PC. LC M5 was located near to the trap site the following day, but thereafter we have been unable to locate him…… until this week that is!

Earlier this year we moved our camera traps into an area of oil palm plantation located around 25 km from our main forest field site. In the 7 weeks that the cameras have been running we’ve accumulated over 400 leopard cat photos. You’ll understand our absolute astonishment when, whilst reviewing the recent photos from the oil palm, we discovered photos of both Eddie and LC M5! Both cats are still in excellent physical condition and the collars appear to be undamaged. So it would appear that both these cats have upped sticks and travelled over 25 km to a completely new homerange, which explains our being unable to find them over the last few months. Sajaril has just this minute returned from the field and has great news…. he and Remmy have radiotracked both cats in the plantation. It’s fantastic to catch up with our old friends!


Nathan Roberts said...

Hi Andy & Jo,

How are you?

I'm going to be heading out to Borneo in under three weeks to do some field research and was wondering whether you would be able to give me any hints and tips, please?

My project will involve camera trapping and visual records on transects. I will be conducting the study at a palm oil plantation near to Tabin, and may be stopping off at Danum to pick up some survey equipment belonging to the PhD student who I will be travelling with.

I'm experimenting with IR photography on the camera traps at the moment, although they seem to be over exposed on the majority of captures. How do you deal with this, or do you find that using the flash for night photography does not affect results too much?

There is a bit more about my project on my blog:

Please post a reply either on my blog or a direct message to Nathan.Roberts@Cumbria.ac.uk

Thank you.
Nathan Roberts
BSc. (Hons) Animal Conservation Science student (Year 3)