Monday, September 23, 2013

First Sunda clouded leopard satellite collared in Sabah

KINABATANGAN: A wild Sunda clouded leopard was recently trapped and fitted with a satellite collar for the first time ever, as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), WildCRU and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

This project, focusing on research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah, is mainly funded by Sime Darby Foundation, with additional funding and support provided by Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo and Rufford Foundation.

“On Sunday 15 September, early morning, a male Sunda clouded leopard weighing 25 kgs, was caught in one of our traps set up along the Kinabatangan River, in the vicinity of DGFC,” explained Andrew Hearn from WildCRU and PhD student at Oxford University.

“Rarely seen, Sunda clouded leopards are amongst some of the most elusive and secretive of the world’s wild cats, and as such, remain one of the least understood.

“I have been studying these beautiful felids here in Sabah for over seven years, yet have seen them only a handful of times, and despite trying, have been unable to entice one into our traps, until now,” he said.

Hearn added the leopard was fitted with a satellite collar to provide crucial information on its movements in the Kinabatangan landscape.

“It should send a location every 20 minutes for about four to six months, enabling us to determine its home range and how it is able to move through the fragmented landscape.

“Incredibly, a few days later, we caught another individual, an old female, weighing only 9 kgs. She was too small and too old to collar, but we have been documenting her in the Kinabatangan since 2010, using camera traps,” said Hearn.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr Fernando Nájera said anesthetizing the first wild male Sunda clouded leopard had been one of the most rewarding experiences of his whole professional career.

“We have been waiting too long for this moment and having this astonishing animal under my care during the procedure was something that I will never forget.

“Malaysians are very lucky to have this unique species in their forests and we all need to keep on working together towards the conservation of Sunda clouded leopards, a truly Malay treasure,” said the PhD student from University Complutense of Madrid, Spain who is working on the project.