Tuesday, March 26, 2013

postheadericon Return to Danum Valley

A glimpse into the life of a clouded leopard. This was the first of
six males we recorded.
Male 2 wanders along a high ridgeline early in the morning

Well it’s been a fair while since I last wrote on here – so high time for another update on our progress with the clouded leopards of Borneo...  

Following directly on from our survey of the Crocker Range the team and I packed up and headed to an old stomping ground – the Danum Valley Conservation Area. 

The last time we were here, way back in 2006, we struggled to get sufficient numbers of photographic detections of clouded leopards to estimate their density. Armed with far more, and arguable much better, camera traps, and hopefully a little more wild cat savvy than in the past, we headed into the forest along once familiar trails and ridges, in search of Sabah’s elusive felids. Not wanting to make things too easy, we set ourselves the hardest task to date (yes, even harder than Crocker’s punishing mountains): 80 camera stations over 150 km2. This took the team a gruelling 6 months to complete, the vast majority of it spent camping at makeshift camp sites – but thankfully it was most definitely worth it.  

One of only two detections of the bay cat. In seven years we've only
recorded this cat  around 30 times
We photographed an amazing 9 nine different animals, six males and 3 females, on 93 distinct occasions, which is a record for us! Marbled cats were coming in thick and fast too, with a total of 53 independent photographic detections, yet we photographed surprisingly few bay cats, only two occasions. Whilst these reddish/grey cats appear to be rarer than chicken’s teeth, and so I wouldn’t expect to get many of them on camera, we actually fared much better back in 2006/7, despite a hugely greater effort. I suspect this is more a reflection of our heightened ability to place cameras in clouded leopard areas as opposed to there being less bay cats – but more on these thought later.  

A rather nice turn-up for the books was the Hose’s civet, which to my knowledge is the first confirmed record for this species in Danum.  Suffice to say, the second crack at Danum Valley has been a complete success, and I thank my team for putting in a huge effort!