Saturday, August 28, 2010

postheadericon First wild cat photo from Kinabatangan!

Our first wild cat photo- capture - a flat-headed cat
Three years of intensive camera trapping in our previous five Sabah field sites resulted in photographic captures of leopard cat (1000+), Sunda Clouded leopard (300+), marbled cat (100+), and bay cat (30). Over the same period we obtained just a single photograph of the elusive flat-headed cat, which was snapped just a few hundred metres from the Danum Valley Field Centre buildings! Indeed, throughout the historical range of this species (Peninsular Thailand and Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra) the flatty is infrequently recorded, raising concern as to its current status.

So with this in mind, we were particularly delighted, whilst checking our freshly deployed cameras in the Kinabatangan, to discover our first cat photo.... yep, a flat-headed cat! He/she was photographed close to the main Kinabatangan river, in a stretch of riparian forest.  Hopefully this is the first of many felid photos to come! 

So far we've also captured several images of sun bears.
Friday, August 20, 2010

postheadericon First survey underway... The Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

To kick off our new programme we are starting with an intense camera trap survey of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS), a protected, but highly fragmented and degraded collection of forest patches along Sabah’s mighty Kinabatangan river. Managed by the Sabah Wildlife Department, the LKWS is one of the few remaining examples of lowland forest in Sabah, and consists of a range of lowland forest formations, including permanently inundated and seasonally flooded swamp forests, riparian and lowland Dipterocarp forest. However, much of the region’s forests have been cleared for oil palm development and the remaining forests of the LKWS are now highly fragmented. 

Nevertheless, as a Wildlife Sanctuary the area is a focal point for conservation in Sabah, and contains important populations of numerous threatened species; a recent study of the potential distrbution of the flat-headed cat (Wilting et al, 2010) and some recent observations (Hearn et al, 2010) suggest that the LKWS is an important area for the conservation of this felid. 

Our focal aim will be to determine the density of Sunda clouded leopards in this unique habitat, but the cameras will also provide vital information regarding the other members of the Bornean felid guild, as well as other wildlife.  Additional key questions that we’ll attempt to answer are: how do clouded leopard and other wild felids persist in this fragmented habitat; can they move between non-contiguous forest blocks, and how effective are the existing riparian corridors at facilitating the movement of animals?  Following our model that we’ve developed over the last four years, we will spend approximately six months surveying the region’s forests patches, cutting trails and setting camera at a total of 70 sites.  

Our team have now arrived at our new home from home, the Danau Girang Field Centre, which is located in the Lot 6 of the LKWS.  The centre is jointly managed by Cardiff University and the Sabah Wildlife Department, both of whom are providing us with exceptional logistical support.  Wish us luck!!