Tuesday, November 29, 2011

postheadericon Amazing first results from Crocker Range

With the last camera trap finally in place, the fun phase has begun… time to check the cameras. And what a start; in addition to the usual crowd of pigs, muntjac, mousedeer, malay civet and the like, we’ve been getting a number of amazing results, including some species that we rarely ever encounter, and even a first for the project…. 

This is a wild cat project after all, so I'll start with the stars of the show.  After more than six months of cam trapping in Sepilok and the surrounding oil palm plantation, without even a hint of a clouded leopard, you can imagine how excited we all were last week when we returned to the house after a camping trip to check the cameras and a perfectly composed (see right) clouded leopard photo appeared on our screen. Since then we’ve picked up several more, and we now have 5 photo events from 4 camera sites. Careful scrutiny of the photos shows that they all belong to a single male, spread over 23km2!!  It’s still early days, but the reasonable encounter rate and the lack of any other individuals, hints at a low population density, which is not altogether surprising. It’s hard to say at this stage whether we’ll have enough data to conduct a density analysis – so fingers crossed the photos keep rolling in. We’ve also got confirmation of marbled cat (only 1 photo to date), and leopard cat (from 3 sites), but alas no Bay cat so far. Come on bay cat, where are you? 

Our extensive surveying of six forest sites in Sabah, over four years, resulted in a measly 3 banded linsang Prionodon linsang photographs.  Although little known, it’s generally thought that this little carnivore species is semi-arboreal, perhaps also skulking around in dense bushy vegetation, waiting to pounce on small mammals and other prey. So it’s not altogether surprising that these guys rarely show up in camera trap surveys. However, despite having only checked about half of our cameras so far we’ve already recorded linsang at 3 different ridgeline sites.  Amazing! Perhaps the lack of a contiguous canopy at these heights forces them to move more frequently along the ground? Who knows – anyway it’s great to see these guys on camera. 

Another great result is that of the Endangered Hose’s civet Diplogalehosei. This rarely detected Bornean endemic is thought to be associated with mossy forests at higher altitudes, although a handful of (questionable?) sightings in relatively low forest suggests that they may be more adaptable than previously thought. So far we’ve detected Hose’s civet at three relatively high level sites (867 -1280m), establishing the first confirmed record of this civet in Crocker Range!! Let’s hope these guys keep getting snapped, so that we can start piecing together some information regarding their ecology. Perhaps Crocker would be the perfect place to start some in depth studies of this beastie… any takers? 

Last, but certainly not least, is a personal favorite of mine, a tiny, brightly orange coloured carnivore with a white head – the Malay weasel Mustela nudipes.  Although thought to be relatively common throughout its range (southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra), and found in a range of habitats (we even recorded some in an oil palm plantation), it is yet another Bornean carnivore that is rarely camera trapped.  Why then are we recording them relatively frequently (3 different sites so far) in Crocker?  Although listed as Least Concern by the IUCN it has never been studied. 

Clearly a great start… I can’t wait to see what the remaining unchecked cameras reveal!


BOD said...

What excellent pictures and congratulations.

Has there ever been any attempt to mount a camera trap so as to target trrs that scratch marks and scat suggest might be used by clouded leopards. Presumably they would favour certian trees for access, egress and ambush like civets?

Harvey Wildlife Photography said...

Very cool blog. Congratulations on your clouded leopard video!