Clouded Leopard Conservation and Research in Borneo
Directors: Simon Husson, Helen Morrogh-Bernard, Susan Cheyne, Laura D'Arcy, Karen Jeffers
The Sabangau Felid Project is dedicated to protecting and studying the Sabangau Forest in Central Kalimantan, along with its partners the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project (OuTrop) and the Center for International Cooperation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP). Sabangau is one of the largest contiguous lowland forests left in Borneo (600,000 hectares) and extremely valuable to conservation. As a peatland swamp forest, Sabangau naturally regulates and protects the local water table. It is also home to many endemic animals such as the Bornean subspecies of the Sunda clouded leopard as well as the largest remaining populations of Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Bornean southern gibbon (Hylobates alibarbis).
The northern section of the Sabangau Forest is protected as the Natural Laboratory for the Study of Peat-swamp Forest (Laboratorium Alam Hutan Gambut, or LAHG), which is managed by CIMTROP at the University of Palangkaraya. The remainder of the forest has been protected as the Sabangau National Park. The CIMTROP Community Patrol Unit (TSA), made up of local villagers from Kereng Bangkerai, protects the forest from illegal logging, poaching, or forest fires. Dry-season fires occur annually and are often exacerbated by human destruction of the naturally water-rich peat. The TSA also undertakes efforts to restore natural hydrological conditions by damming artificial canals and replanting degraded land.
Felid Research: The Sabangau Felid Project has forty-four cameras placed in twenty-seven locations in order to document the presence and behavior of wild felids in Sabangau. These cameras have returned photos of clouded leopards, leopard cats, flat-headed cats, and marbled cats. A population of 154 clouded leopards is estimated for Sabangau (2.75/100km2 area) based on these photos. Questionnaires show that bushmeat is the primary motivation for poaching animals, although forest fires are the most prominent threat to felid populations. Canopy cover and undergrowth density seem to be significant predictors of clouded leopard presence.
Forestry and Biodiversity:In order to better understand plant life, a comprehensive catalogue of species is being created, with 317 species currently identified. Six forest plots have also been established to monitor tagged plants and identify long-term changes.
In addition to forestry, the animal biodiversity is also being catalogued. Seven permanent monitoring sites have been established to collect data on the region's flagship species. This includes camera trap stations, mammal, fruit bat, turtle, amphibian, moth, and tree surveys, orangutan nest transects, and gibbon listening posts. Surveys were also undertaken in three other areas of Central Kalimantan: the Bawan Forest, the Mungku Baru Ulin Forest, and the Katingan Forest.
Conferences and Projects:Conferences attended include the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation, the International Workshop on Orangutan Conservation, and the International Primatological Society. Volunteers helped with biodiversity surveys throughout the year and Indonesian staff were trained in a variety of subjects including research techniques, computer training, and English language courses. Sixteen research papers were either published or submitted in 2010.
Patrols and Firefighting: In order to protect the region further poaching, logging, or fire damage must be prevented and natural hydrological conditions must be restored. To protect the LAHG and surrounding areas, seven villagers from Kereng Bangkerai and three from Kalampangan have formed a local Community Forest Patrol Unit (TSA). The TSA is highly supported by local leaders and law enforcement agencies and may temporarily expand it's numbers with up to fifty part-time members. The TSA supports researchers, prevents illegal exploitation, builds dams, attempts to raise social awareness, and maintains paths.
Dam Building: Building dams is especially important as it restores hydrological conditions previously destroyed by artificial logging canals and helps prevent forest fires. The peat swamp naturally retains water, acting as a water reservoir in the dry season, flood prevention in the wet season, and water table purifier, as well as providing habitat for a number of fish species. Previously, canals had been constructed to ease logging attempts. This drained the peat, leading to drier, less beneficial and more fire-prone conditions (dry peat is an especially good fuel for fires). Dams are built out of local supplies and, in 2010, 379 new dams were constructed on nine former canals, bringing the total up to 457.
Reforestation: Seedlings are currently being grown and planted in a large area of heavily degraded sedge adjacent to the Sabangau river. This will restore a heavily damaged area as well as provide information on which species can successfully grow in depleted areas. Weather conditions in 2009 hampered monitoring attempts. 2010 data is still being collected.