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Satellite data provide insights on Clouded Leopard movements

3 April 2014

Clouded leopard having satellite collar fitted

Two more wild Sunda clouded leopards were recently trapped and fitted with a satellite collar in the Kinabatanagn, as part of a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), WildCRU, Oxford University and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC). This project, focusing on research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard 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, Rufford Foundation and The Clouded Leopard Project.

 "On 1st February 2014, Jack, a male clouded leopard that was first collared last October, was caught again and we took the opportunity to change its collar," said Dr Diana Ramirez, Wildlife Rescue Unit and DGFC wildlife veterinarian. "It was good to see that the collar did not leave any mark on the animal's skin and that he was in very good health condition," noted Dr Diana. "More recently, on 22 March 2014, we caught another male that we called Raja. We named him Raja and he is the third male collared within this programme," said Dr Laura Benedict, Wildlife Rescue Unit veterinarian who supervised Raja's anesthesia and collaring.

"We are all delighted that we have been so fortunate to have collared these animals for our conservation research. Sunda clouded leopards are notoriously difficult to trap," said Andrew Hearn, from WildCRU and PhD student at Oxford University, lead researcher on collaring study. "It was an absolute pleasure to finally meet Raja in person, whom we first photographed with camera traps in the Kinabatangan back in 2010. It will be fascinating, and hopefully incredibly useful for our conservation efforts, to see how these cats move through the human-dominated landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan," added Hearn. "So far, the results gained from the first ever collaring of a clouded leopard back in September 2013, have shown that the animal has crossed the highway Sandakan-Lahad Datu several times, venturing near human settlements as well, and is travelling a lot in this fragmented landscape," noted Hearn. "By tagging several males and hopefully a female or two, we will also learn about territoriality and how those individuals share the shrunken habitat," concluded Hearn.

"The collaring of these two males is part of an intensive satellite tracking programme to study the spatial ecology and habitat associations of the Sunda clouded leopard in the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan, dominated by palm oil plantations and highly degraded forest," said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC and researcher at Cardiff University, leading the programme. "Our research is playing an important role in conservation. Regardless of the level of efforts focused on maintaining and increasing the amount of natural habitat, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle. Therefore, understanding how wildlife is using this ever-changing landscape will help us in mitigating and hopefully reducing the level of threats posed by these changes," concluded Goossens.
during his collaring operation, in January 2014.