Tuesday, March 29, 2011

postheadericon Insights from the Kinabatangan river

Danau Girang, one of several Ox-bow lakes in the region
and location  of the Danua Girang Field Centre - our home from home.

The opening days of 2011 witnessed the retrieval of the last of our camera traps from the forests of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve and the beginning of a new challenge – a camera trap survey of the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. 

The survey of the Kinabatangan’s wild felids turned out to be a tough one; we suffered heavy losses of camera trap units – both as a result of people stealing them (presumably because they don’t want to be caught poaching), but also as a result of our aging camera population finally succumbing to the destructive (at least for electronics) powers of Borneo’s rain-forests (these particular cameras have been running since 2006 – so not a bad innings really).

Despite these challenges we were able to come away with some very useful insights into the lives of the Kinabatangan’s felids:

CLF3, one of three female clouded leopards detected in
the Kinabatangan
- The narrow corridors of forest along certain sections of the Kinabatangan are actively used by Bornean felids – extension and development of such corridors could thus be a useful tool in the conservation of these cats in this highly fragmented landscape.

- Initial analyses suggest that Sunda Clouded leopard and marbled cat likely exist at lower densities here than elsewhere in Sabah, such as the extensive and comparatively contiguous forests of the Yayasan Sabah Management Area.

- We have found no evidence of Bornean bay cat in these lowland forests.

- Whilst flat-headed cat have been recorded, low photographic capture rates suggest that even here, one of the areas highlighted as prime habitat for this species (Wilting et al 2010), these felids are found at low densities.

One of only two photo-captures of marbled cat. 
As ever though, our initial work in this unique area has raised more questions than answers, and we are now making steps to kick-off a study of the spatial ecology of these cats as part of a larger programme investigating Bornean Carnivore community ecology.  Stay tuned for more details in the near future.  Well OK, not too near, going by my previous history of updating this blog...

I'll end with a big thank you to the staff and PTY students at the Danau Girang Field Centre, who have been amazing at supporting our wild cat work here in the Kina.  Also a big thank you to to Drs David Macdonald and Luke Hunter for their invaluable advice, and all our project funders, and particularly to the Kaplan- Recanti family, Panthera, and the Clouded Leopard Project