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Preliminary survey on the importance of evergreen forest

Preliminary survey on the importance of evergreen forest outside of Preah Vihear Protected Forest for Clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Northern Cambodia

Investigator: Ai Suzuki, Kyoto University

Camera trapping in the Preah Vihear Protected Forest has provided the first confirmation of clouded leopards in the northern plains of Cambodia. The northern plains are a globally significant area of biodiversity conservation due to the unique landscape, dominated by open deciduous forests. However, the clouded leopards photographed were found in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, which make up a relatively small percentage of the total area.

Due to a lack of information on clouded leopard distribution and habitat connectivity in the area, effective conservation strategies cannot be planned. Researchers therefore decided to investigate the presence of clouded leopards in Chendar Plywood, an area outside the Preah Vihear Protected Forest (PVPF), an area currently under an international logging moratorium. The researchers have three planned objectives:
  • To examine the presence of clouded leopards in unprotected evergreen forest at Chendar Plywood
  • To compile photographic identification of individual clouded leopards in Cambodia’s northern plains
  • To collect information on how humans use the Chendar Plywood area, to aid in future research investigating how people affect clouded leopard conservation
As of the end of December 2013, updates for each objective have been published. In the short space of time since the beginning of the camera trap study in Chendar Plywood, the presence of clouded leopards was not confirmed. However, the camera traps were run until April 2014, so news of whether clouded leopards were photographed will arrive soon.

One of the clouded leopards photographed in
Preah Vihear Protected Forest
Progress has been made on collating images of clouded leopards from the northern plains. Three individuals have now been captured by the camera traps in the PVPF, and these pictures will form the beginning of a database, allowing other researchers to identify and add new clouded leopard sightings from across the northern plains.

Unfortunately, the current photographs only show one side of the bodies of each cat and identifying the sex of each animal has been unsuccessful. The researchers hope with more camera traps deployed in the study sites, this problem will be resolved.

Finally, assessing the impacts of humans and conservation concerns in Chendar Plywood has provided new avenues for further investigation. First, illegal logging in the area is leading to habitat destruction. This is because the timber growing in this area is of a very high value, and people come from other areas in the country to earn money from this resource. Second, interviews with local villagers have provided an insight into the status of prey species in the area. They believe that animal populations have decreased compared to the numbers present 10 years ago.

In the next step of the project, illegal logging and prey species abundance will be more deeply investigated. It is hoped that results from this research will aid in the overall conservation goals of the northern plains of Cambodia.