Wednesday, April 6, 2011

postheadericon Next up – The Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve

Taking a well-earned rest whilst out surveying for trails in Sepilok. L-R,
Jasz, Tom (volunteer) and me. Photo: Gilmore Belongon (on Tom's camera)
Our team cannot be accused of hanging around.  Having unloaded the last of our gear from the Danau Girang Field Centre’s boat to our trusty truck, we waved goodbye to the mighty Kinabatangan river and set off in search of our next survey site: The Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve

Map of the Sepilok region and surrounding area. Clearly Sepilok is rather
isolated, the only link to other forest areas being a tenuous link through
a narrow corridor of mangrove forest. 
The Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve and the adjacent Sepilok Forest Reserve (typically collectively referred to as Sepilok) is an incredibly interesting forest. Home to the world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, and just a stone’s throw from Sabah’s second largest city, Sandakan, it is home to a diverse array of forest formations and wildlife. Hill Dipterocarp, riverine, Kerangas (heath), and mangrove forests all jostle for space in this relatively small (km2) and isolated forest fragment.  And therein lies the potential problem for its felid inhabitants. Surrounding this matrix of forest, and forming the northern, eastern and western borders, is an assortment  of anthropogenically modified habitats, predominated by oil palm, but also including orchards, industrial areas and housing (see below).  Beyond the mangroves to the south lies the Sepilok Sea, and in the far south west corner a narrow corridor of mangrove links the Sepilok fragment to an extensive area of mangrove that reaches, albeit broken in places, to the mouth of the lower Kinabatangan.

Does this mangrove constitute a corridor connecting wild felid populations between Sepilok and the Kinabatangan, and if not, is Sepilok large enough to support viable populations of clouded leopards and other felids?  What species of wild cat still persist here? Over the next few months we will attempt to shed light on these important questions.  Wish us luck!