The Bornean Clouded leopard Programme, is a joint multi-site research collaborative effort between the Sabah Wildlife Department in Borneo and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), University of Oxford.
They aim to advance understanding and enhance the conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other threatened Bornean wild cats in Sabah. This is being done by short term camera trap surveys designed to estimate clouded leopard densities and felid community structure in six key forest areas within Sabah, Borneo. In addition, an intensive camera trap survey is being implemented for approximately 2.5 years at a single forest site, designed to provide insights into the ecology of the clouded leopard.
The project is being led by Andrew Hearn and Joanna Ross.
Andy and Jo during their last project in Borneo
Andy describes their trail cam methods as such,
We're using several models: Snapshot Snipers (which use a Sony P41/P43 camera), Cuddeback captures, and Bushnell Trophy Cams. We have bait in the past, food items such as shrimp paste etc, as well as trapping lures from the US, but these tended to attract non-target species (bearded pigs and civets mainly), or had no discernible effect on attracting Bornean felids (trapping lures). Having first determined that we could get some of the cats on the cameras we started using mark-recapture methods to estimate their density - and generally it is better not to use bait due to methodological issues.
When available, we place the cameras along existing human trails, the drier, longer and clearer the better. Abandoned old logging roads, again, ideally dry and not too degraded (i.e. still relatively clear of vegetation) are also preferred sites. Natural ridge lines, or other topographical features that may filter animal movements are also used - ridges in particular appeared to selectively utilised by a number of mammals. In the absence of such features, we create our own trails, clearing the vegetation and even sweeping the trail clear of leaf litter. Such trails are typically 4-500 m long, ideally longer, but logistics often mean that this is all we can realistically achieve given our timeframe. Again, many mammals start using the new trails, as can be witnessed by the cameras snapping them moving down the trail.
We typically have a minimum of 35 pairs of cameras running (currently 40 pairs), and we move these to a second survey area, resulting in a survey of a min of 70 sites per 130km2 study area.
Andy and Jo have kindly given us permission to reproduce some of the pictures of cats they have recently captured on camera. There are many more images on their blog site of other animals caputured on camera during their previous research project. It's a blog I would highly recommend to everyone with an interest in wild cats or wildlife in general, it is full of details of the project and its aims. I for one will certainly be following this blog with interest over the following year or so.
All these images are copyright of Andy Hearns and Jo Ross, and should be contacted via their blog if you wish to reproduce these images elsewhere. I have repoduced the comments from the team that accompanies each photograph from their blog.
Our first wild cat photo- capture - a flat-headed cat
A leopard cat. This adaptable species is thought to respond well to habitat disturbance, and unlike the other 4 Bornean felids can be found residing in oil palm plantations. It's a little surprising then, that this is our first photo of this species - but again it is early days.