Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
The Effects of Forest Conversion, Fragmentation, and Hunting on Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi) Status: Implications for Regional, Transnational Habitat Connectivity in Sarawak (Malaysia) and Kalimantan (Indonesia)
Small carnivores of the Maliau Basin, Sabah, Borneo, including a new locality for Hose's Civet, Diplogale hosei
Investigators: Dr. Anthony Giordano and Dr. Jedediah Brodie
For the last year Dr.'s Anthony Giordano and Jedediah Brodie, along with a large host of local collaborators, have been studying the Bornean populations of the Sunda clouded leopard and small carnivorous mammals. Because Borneo lacks other, larger predators such as tigers it is thought that clouded leopard densities may be higher here than other locations. Through the use of extensive networks of camera traps the two researchers are modeling population densities as well as investigating the impact of habitat fragmentation and exploitation, with the ultimate goal of a “trans-island habitat corridor”. Now, as the project enters its second year, the researchers report on their progress.
Research has primarily been carried out in three national parks, the Maliau Basin Conservation Area (MBCA), the Gunung Mulu National Park (GMNP), and the Pulong Tau National Park (PTNP). Work in the MBCA started in January 2010 and the GMNP/PTNP in May-June of that year.
Jed helps an assistant affix one of the Reconyx camera traps to a tree
Streambed game trail along which camera traps were placed.
In order to better understand not only the biological but also human environment of the Murung valley, a team of nine researchers from around the world have united with local Bornean efforts. The group will fly, drive, and boat to the village of Tubang Tujang, where they will split into two teams. A biological team will leave the village to live in primitive low-impact sites in the forest, studying wildlife populations and developing future conservation initiatives. At the same time, a social team will stay in Tubang Tujang (and surrounding villages) to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups as well as document pollution levels and the local impact of industrialization. The social team will cooperate with the local communities to develop resource management plans, which should empower the small villages to protect their environment and ways of life. The results of both of these studies will be used in scientific publications, school programs, environmental management plans and films to raise ecological and social awareness.
Twenty-six pairs of camera traps were set up in the MBCA, spaced roughly one to two kilometers apart, in a variety of areas. The MBCA was chosen due to its size, remoteness, and relatively untouched dipterocarp forests. Furthermore, the area is not actively being hunted and so should provide a good measurement for a baseline clouded leopard population density. Two park rangers were hired to help set up and maintain the cameras.
Photos include: Sunda clouded leopard, leopard cat, banteng, bearded pig, Bornean elephant, Malay civet
The cameras were checked in May 2010, and, although a few had stopped working, the researchers recovered several thousand photographs of many species, forty-two of which depicted clouded leopards. Eighty-eight photographs were taken of small mammal carnivores, the most common of which were Malay civet, leopard cat, banded palm civet, and mongooses. Time analysis showed that the civets and cats were more nocturnally active, while mongooses were diurnal. Photographs were also taken of Hose's civet, a Bornean endemic about which extremely little is known. This is only the fifth known site where Hose's civets have been recorded.
The cameras continued to operate throughout the year (12-months). Post-May data is still being processed for both clouded leopards and small carnivores.
In May and June of 2010, with the help of local guides, twenty single-camera stations were set in Gunung Mulu National Park (GMNP) and twenty more in Pulong Tau National Park (PTNP). Neither park had previously been subject to camera-trapping and data were retrieved for processing in January 2011. In contrast to MBCA, GMNP has been open to hunting before and local Penan tribes still hold loosely-defined legal rights for hunting, most of which is opportunistic. PTNP is a more protected site due to its remote, rugged location and the local eco-friendly town of Bario, although heavy logging has occurred in adjacent forests. Similar to MBCA it contains intact lowland dipterocarp forests and a high diversity of other habitats.
Data are still being processed from these sites.
The extremely rare Hose's civet
In addition to studying the density of clouded leopard populations in these parks, the researchers also hope to focus their activities in 2011 to better understanding local migrations between forests and the corridors used. While migrating, animals often use specific routes to move between habitats. The researchers intend to determine likely routes and set up further camera trap networks to document which corridors support the greatest number of animals. This will include interstitial and transitionary forests not included in the previous study. A list of such “candidate study areas” has been compiled, with research in the Ulu Limbang forest, the Ulu Balui forest, and the Ulu Temborong National Park beginning in early-to-mid 2011, as well as Gulung Palung National Park and the proposed Hose Mountains National Park in late 2011.
Local cooperation for this project has been extremely high. Both the director of the Maliau Basin Conservation Area and the Gunung Mulu National Park have expressed strong support for this project. In addition, the director of the MBCA requested assistance starting a research and monitoring camera trap program for the banteng, a large species of wild cattle. And at the GMNP, the local director has committed to make long-term study of the park's mammals a high priority in the coming years. In order to help with these projects, Giordano and Brodie hope to procure ten to twenty more camera traps. And while the Pulong Tau National Park does not currently have official paid staff, the town of Bario and its neighbors have distinguished themselves as very enthusiastic conservationists, with the hope that the PTNP will be recognized as an ecotourism destination.
STUDY SITE LIST ON THE ISLAND OF BORNEO OVER THE NEXT 3-5 YEARS