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Sabangau Felid Project - Update 2012 paw
Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
Sabangau Felid Project, Indonesian Borneo - Update 2012

OuTrop carries out research in Indonesia under the support and sponsorship of the Centre for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP) at the University of Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Established in 1999, The Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) aims to support biodiversity conservation in Kalimantan, Indonesia, through protection of important habitats for biodiversity and species’ conservation, and forest regeneration and restoration. The priority site – the Sabangau Forest in Central Kalimantan – is one of the most important areas of tropical rainforest in Borneo, is home to the world’s largest remaining populations of Bornean orangutan and Bornean southern gibbon, and is one of the largest terrestrial carbon stores.

OuTrop is working towards achieving this aim through three main routes:
  1. Conservation-orientated research, providing important information for, and training to, conservation policy makers and practitioners;
  2. Supporting locally-led on-the-ground conservation initiatives; and
  3. Information dissemination at a local, national and international level, to highlight the problems and solutions for biodiversity conservation.
The work that OuTrop does therefore includes research to monitor the distribution, population status, behaviour and ecology of the forest’s flagship ape and cat species; biodiversity and forestry research; working with local partners to implement conservation solutions; extensive communications and information dissemination work; and training and capacity building of foreign and Indonesian students, scientists and communities.

In the Felid project, which is a collaborative venture between OuTrop and WildCRU at the University of Oxford, researchers are asking key questions about the density and abundance of felids and their prey in peat-swamp forests, investigating the threats these species face and how these threats might be mitigated through working with local communities.

A total of 44 cameras have been placed in 27 locations throughout the study site, covering an area of 145 km2. This research has confirmed that Sabangau supports populations of four of the five Bornean felids, including the largest predator on Borneo, the clouded leopard plus the flat-headed and marbled cats, photographed for the first time in peat-swamp forest. Using data derived from these camera trap images, they have established population densities for all felid species in the area.

Key discoveries made during 2011 for the Felid Project include:

  • Using Vortex modelling techniques and available data on clouded leopard life history, the data have revealed that small changes in the impact of fire could have drastic consequences for clouded leopard population viability in Sabangau.
  • Extensive interviews and casual conversations with local villagers suggest that direct hunting and/or persecution is not a substantial threat to the area’s clouded leopard population.
  • There was also no evidence that clouded leopard skins are used in traditional ceremonies as has been reported in Malaysian Borneo; and little evidence of hunters focusing on potential clouded leopard prey, such as pangolins (Manis javanica).
  • Canopy and undergrowth cover surrounding traps are significant predictors as to whether clouded leopards are captured on particular cameras, but the presence of prey species on the same or surrounding cameras is not.