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The Bornean Clouded Leopard Programme paw
Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
The Bornean Clouded Leopard Programme – June 2013 Update

Investigators: Andrew Hearn, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford 

Founded in June 2010, the Bornean Clouded Leopard Programme aims to advance the conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other Bornean cats across a large number of sites. Program researchers hope to establish the distribution and conservation status of clouded leopards and other felids throughout Sabah (north-eastern Borneo), and what affects their presence and abundance.

Working closely with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and WildCRU (at the University of Oxford), a short-term camera trap survey was completed to address the program’s principle aims:

  • Establish distributions and densities of clouded leopards and other wild cats within Sabah
  • Assess the impacts of habitat alteration on wild cats, focusing on the Sunda clouded leopard
  • Investigate the ecology of Bornean felids
  • Conduct a Borneo-wide corridor and landscape analysis

Preliminary Findings

The project has made the following findings at this stage:
  • The development and refinement of a clouded leopard-specific camera trapping protocol
  • All five members of the Bornean felid guild (clouded leopard, bay cat, marbled cat, flat-headed cat and leopard cat) can be found in selectively logged forest, making it an important habitat for conservation
  • Oil palm plantations seem to be non-habitat for four of the five cat species
  • Rehabilitated forest may support higher densities of clouded leopards than selectively logged forest, likely due to higher densities of prey species

Current Work

Field work is now focused on three core lines of investigation: (1) Estimating clouded leopard density in Sabah (2) Developing a superior approach for estimating clouded leopard densities using camera trapping (3) Mapping landscape resistance to identify corridors and barriers for Sunda clouded leopards.

Initial numbers of clouded leopards coming from the Danum Valley Conservation Area indicate an estimated population density of 2.53 clouded leopards/100km2. This appears to be quite low when compared to felids of a similar size, and so the program will now focus on understanding why densities are so low.

Camera trapping has been continually refined to best survey clouded leopards and other felids. However, one phenomenon is affecting the data. Many wild felids, such as tigers, snow leopards and European lynx, have low female detection rates through camera trap studies. Many factors may produce this effect, including attempts to avoid paths used by males or humans, and so the next stage of experimental design will be to develop controls which will lead to a more accurate proportion of females being caught on camera.

Work is also being done to trap clouded leopards to aid in identification of corridors and barriers. Data collected from this study will then be used to plan conservation strategies and target specific areas which are important for clouded leopard dispersal.