Wednesday, July 15, 2009

postheadericon Mammals residing in the oil palm plantations

In March 2009 the camera traps were moved to an oil palm plantation to investigate to what extent the Bornean wild cats, and indeed the wider mammal community, use plantations, and to estimate the density of leopard cats, which are thought to do well in this habitat. Our study site, the Danum Palm plantation is the southernmost tip of a vast contiguous plantation area, and is sandwiched between the Segama river, to the east, and the Ulu Segama and Malua Forests Reserves, to the West.

During the survey we recorded over 23 species of mammal that were using the plantation, although, importantly, some species such as the sambar deer and mouse deer were only recorded at the forest-plantation boundary. Bornean yellow muntjac and red muntjac were recorded in some areas, however, photo-capture rates of these species are lower than that from our forest surveys, which suggests that they may be found at lower densities in plantations. Bearded pigs, porcupines and Pig-tailed macaques were found in good numbers throughout the plantation, whereas long-tailed macaques tended to be associated with the camera sites adjacent to the Segama river.

Leopard cats were the most commonly recorded carnivore, although Malay civets and common palm civets were also frequently recorded. On several occasions photographs were also obtained of mongooses and yellow-throated martens. It’s likely that the high densities of rodents found in these plantations are being exploited to differing degrees by these particular carnivores. In addition to leopard cats we also photo-trapped a single male marbled cat, on 4 separate occasions, which is extremely rare, even for forest surveys. Crucially, as with the Samba and mousedeer, this marbled cat was only detected on the very edge (literally) of the forest. We found no evidence of the clouded leopard, bay cat or flat-headed cat using the plantation, although it should be highlighted that survey was too brief to conclude that these felids are not using the plantation.

Leopard cat photographed along one of the palm terraces (Top). 
Yellow throated marten photographed along a gravel road(Bottom)

We have now removed all the cameras from the plantation, where they will be sadly missed by the local children who found them an endless source of fascination!