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Trapping of Sunda clouded leopard

20 September 2013

Sunda clouded leopard tagging
 The male leopard fitted with its satellite and Andrew Hearn taking measurements of the body

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 7 years, yet have seen them only a handful of times, and despite trying, have been unable to entice one into our traps, until now," added Hearn. "The leopard was fitted with a satellite collar to provide us with crucial information on its movements in the Kinabatangan landscape. It should send a location every 20 minutes for about 4 to 6 months, enabling us to determine its home range and how it is able to move through the fragmented landscape," said Hearn. "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," concluded Hearn.

"The collaring of this male is part of an intensive satellite tracking programme to study the spatial ecology and habitat associations of the Sunda clouded leopard and other sympatric carnivores 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. "We are able to carry out this research thanks to a major donation (1.46 Million MYR) from the Sime Darby Foundation, as part of their Big 9 scheme. Without the support of the Foundation and our other partners, we would not be able to carry out such crucial work to help understanding the ecological needs of the Sunda clouded leopard and transform this information into conservation policy," added Goossens.