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Breakthrough in clouded leopard project

The Star/ANN | Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Ropes strung on branches across the Kinabatangan River in Sandakan, the second-largest state in the Malaysian state of Sabah, provide crossings for orang utans, which do not swim. The Sabah Wildlife Department has caught its first Sunda clouded leopard after more than a year and a half. The leopard will be fitted with a satellite collar which tracks its movements, and the information gathered will be used to develop research and conservation programmes for the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah.

KINABATANGAN, MALAYSIA - A female Sunda clouded leopard has been fitted with a satellite collar - for the first time ever - by a conservationist studying the movement of the endangered species in the lower Kinabatangan area.

Rahsia, weighing 9.9kg, was caught in one of the traps set up along the Kinabatangan River in the vicinity of the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) on Aug 15.

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) team member Andrew Hearn, who is a PhD student with Oxford University, said the leopard was the fourth one collared but was the first female to be tagged.

"After more than a year and a half of setting traps each day, the capture of this healthy female leopard is a breakthrough for our project," Hearn said.

"We are hopeful that the data from her collar will provide essential insight into her movements that will enable the development of appropriate conservation actions for her species."

The collaborative project is being carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department, WildCRU and DGFC. It is aimed at the research and conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard and other carnivores in Sabah.

Project leader Dr Benoit Goossens, who is DGFC director, said the research played an important role in Sunda clouded leopard conservation and management.

"Regardless of the efforts focused on maintaining and increasing the amount of natural habitat, we are ultimately fighting a losing battle in the Kinabatangan area," he said.

"So, understanding how the wildlife is using this ever-changing landscape will help us mitigate and hopefully reduce the level of threats posed by changes to their habitat."

The project is funded by Sime Darby Foundation, with additional funding and support from Atlanta Zoo, Houston Zoo, Recanati-kaplan Foundation, Robertson Foundation, Point Defiance Zoo, The Clouded Leopard Project and Rufford Foundation.

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