KOTA KINABALU: Hunting activities and habitat destruction are reducing the number of the Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah to about 750.
A recent study published in the scientific journal, Oryx, has produced the first robust estimate of the number of Sunda clouded leopards remaining in Sabah where changes to the state’s forest landscape are believed to be affecting these threatened wild cats.
The study, led by researchers WildCRU (University of Oxford, UK), in collaboration with partners from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), Sabah Wildlife Department and Panthera, provided the first evidence that the population density of the Sunda clouded leopard is ‘negatively affected’ by hunting pressure and forest fragmentation.
It also showed that the time period since logging among selectively logged forests is positively associated with abundance.
This research was primarily funded by the Darwin Initiative, the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Sime Darby Foundation.
“For six years, we conducted intensive camera-trap surveys of eight protected areas in Sabah,” said Dr Andrew Hearn from WildCRU, first author of the paper. “We used the cloud shaped markings on the coat of the animal and morphology to identify age and sex of individual animals and used sophisticated statistical methods to estimate their density in these different forest areas across Sabah.
“We also analysed our camera trap data to provide an estimate of poaching pressure for each study area,” added Hearn. “We found evidence of poaching activity in all forest areas with the lowest detection rates being in Danum and the highest in Kinabatangan. We finally estimated the size of the population of the Sunda clouded leopard to be around 750 individuals in Sabah.”
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