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Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
Research in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

Clouded leopards, the secretive top-carnivore of South-East Asian rainforests: their distribution, status and conservation needs in Sabah, Malaysia

Andreas Wilting, Frauke Fischer, Soffian Abu Bakar, and K. Eduard Linsenmair
Published: 08 November 2006, BMC Ecology 2006, 6:16

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The continued depletion of tropical rainforests and fragmentation of natural habitats has led to significant ecological changes which place most top carnivores under heavy pressure. Various methods have been used to determine the status of top carnivore populations in rainforest habitats, most of which are costly in terms of equipment and time. In this study we utilized, for the first time, a rigorous track classification method to estimate population size and density of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in north-eastern Borneo (Sabah). Additionally, we extrapolated our local-scale results to the regional landscape level to estimate clouded leopard population size and density in all of Sabah’s reserves, taking into account the reserves’ conservation status (totally protected or commercial forest reserves), their size and presence or absence of clouded leopards.

The population size in the 56 km2 research area was estimated to be five individuals, based on a capture-recapture analysis of four confirmed animals differentiated by their tracks. Extrapolation of these results led to density estimates of nine per 100 km2 in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The true density most likely lies between our approximately 95% confidence interval of eight to 17 individuals per 100 km2.

We demonstrate that previous density estimates of 25 animals/100 km2 most likely overestimated the true density. Applying the 95% confidence interval we calculated in total a very rough number of 1500–3200 clouded leopards to be present in Sabah. However, only 275–585 of these animals inhabit the four totally protected reserves that are large enough to hold a long-term viable population of > 50 individuals.

Consequences of Forest Disturbance on Carnivore Distribution in Sabah, Malaysia and their Phylogeography and Ancestry in the Malay Archipelago.

Andreas Wilting  
Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany

In this study, the researcher will evaluate the consequences of selective logging and forest composition on the distribution of wild cats and other carnivores. Because much of the potential habitat for these species is located in commercial forest reserves, assessing the impact of logging will be a critical component of the establishment of sustainable management plans. The researcher will also examine the genetic relationships between populations to determine how habitat requirements affect species distribution.

Research for this project will be conducted in four study sites in northeastern Borneo. Field methods include tracking along transects, fecal sample collection, night surveys, and camera trapping. Collaborators for this study include the Sabah Wildlife Department, WWF Malaysia, and the University of Malaysia, Sabah.