Rare leopards found in Borneo forest: researcher

Yahoo News 21 Aug 08;

A new population of rare leopard has been found living in thick forests on the Indonesian half of Borneo island, a researcher said Thursday.

Camera traps in Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan province have snapped pictures of two adult male Bornean clouded leopards in an area once decimated by logging, British zoologist Susan Cheyne said.

The discovery by researchers from Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and Indonesia's Pangkalan Raya University is the first confirmation the clouded leopard, which is classified as vulnerable, lives in the park.

The discovery holds out new hope for the little-understood species, which numbers less than 10,000 individuals and is the top predator on Borneo island, Cheyne said.

"This elusive species is a good indicator of forest health. Large cats need prey and the prey -- deer, macaques and bearded pigs -- need the forest," she said.

"The clouded leopard is the largest predator on Borneo, there are no tigers. Having the island's top predator surviving in an ex-logging concession hopefully means that the species is resilient."

However, the discovery still only provides a small amount of information about the behaviour and distribution of the big cats.

"With more time and increased number of photos we can start to identify individual cats, look at which cameras they show up on to get an idea of range, and possible range overlap with the smaller cats," Cheyne said.

The forests on Indonesia's half of Borneo island are home to some of the world's most diverse wildlife, but are under threat from plantations and logging, much of it illegal.

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