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Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
Effects of Fragmentation, Habitat Conversion, and Hunting on Clouded Leopard Abundance and Distribution in East Kalimantan

Investigators: Rustam, Tropical Rainforest Research Center, Mulawarman University and Anthony J. Giordano, Project Neofelis, S.P.E.C.I.E.S., LifeScape International

This project is the first to investigate the conservation status of clouded leopards in East Kalimantan. The investigators will attempt to determine how the current distribution and density of clouded leopards relate to habitat type, degree of habitat patch isolation, hunting pressure (direct and indirect), and prey availability in four main study regions of differing protection status. They will also examine the potential for connectivity among different habitat patches in East Kalimantan.

Fundamental information on the ecology and conservation status of the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) is still very much lacking. Very little is known regarding the species’ natural history, habitat needs, distribution, and response to habitat conversion on the island of Borneo. Recent studies in Tabin Wildlife Refuge and the Danum Valley of Sabah, Malaysia, have begun to shed light on clouded leopard activity patterns and spatial structure in the region. However, as landmark as these studies are, they are still in their early phases and final results are pending. Furthermore, while the results of these studies might be applicable to the planning and implementation of conservation strategies throughout parts of Sabah, the applicability of these results to other areas of Borneo must be considered limited at best. This is particularly true when we consider the four Kalimantan departments of Indonesia, a political region constituting nearly ¾ of Borneo’s geographic area. As of 2005, the rate of deforestation in Kalimantan was still increasing (Borneo: Treasure Island at Risk, WWF Report). Between 2000 and 2002, deforestation rates were an alarming 12,000 km2/ year, or 2.5 hectares/ minute. This rate is exponentially higher than the rate for Malaysian Borneo during the same period (approximately 1,000 km2/ year). Despite this, Kalimantan still plays host to the major forest habitat types on Borneo, including sizeable tracts of lowland evergreen forest, montane forest, mangrove forest, and peat swamp forest. As the top predator on Borneo, clouded leopards can in fact serve as umbrella species for designing conservation strategies targeting large tracts of these habitats; habitats which are vital to so many endemic species. Yet until we know more about this under-studied felid, those strategies might well remain as elusive as the cat itself. This project is the first comparative effort using multiple, geographically disparate field sites to investigate the ecological requirements of the clouded leopard.

  1. To estimate the density and population size of clouded leopards in five study areas and four distinct geographic regions (Figure 1.)
  2. To determine the impact of habitat type and prey availability on clouded leopard presence/ absence and density
  3. To determine what effect habitat patch size and fragmentation has on clouded leopard persistence and viability
  4. To determine the role hunting pressure plays on prey and/or on clouded leopard status and abundance
  5. To evaluate the potential for connectivity of study sites to other regions of potential importance to clouded leopard conservation

Project Timeline: January 2009 – March 2010