Malaysia: Sunda leopards need right ‘cover’

The Star 23 Apr 18;

KOTA KINABALU: The endangered Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah are found to be able to move more comfortably in covered forests.

Researchers are therefore calling for under-productive and flooded oil palm estates to be converted into conservation areas.

According to scientists working on the international leading journal Biological Conservation, forest canopy cover facilitates the movements of these cats through the landscape in the lower Kinaba­tangan area.

“But recently cleared or under-productive and flooded oil palm plantation areas tend to resist their movements,” said lead researcher Dr Andrew Hearn of Oxford University.

He said their study provides the first evidence that forest cover was crucial in maintaining the connectivity of clouded leopard populations, while the protection of the large areas of privately owned forest in Kinabatangan, much of which had been earmarked for conversion to plantations, was critical for the animal’s survival.

Dr Samuel Cushman, director of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Center for Landscape Science, said the analysis produced a clear finding that clouded leo­pards were highly resistant to moving outside of forest cover.

Dr Cushman, the study collaborator who developed the analytical and modelling approaches for the research, said the scenario analyses provided useful guidance to managers about the costs and benefits of alternative conservation planning in the Kinaba­tangan region.

Dr Benoit Goossens, director of the Danau Girang Field Centre and reader at Cardiff University, said their research showed that the conversion of frequently flooded and under-productive plantation areas to forest would bring large benefits to the leopards.

“It would also minimise impact to the plantation industry,” Goossens said.

“These findings will be integrated in the State Action Plan for the Sunda clouded leopard that is being drafted and will be launched in September,” Dr Goossens said.

The data was collected via the observation of four tagged Sunda clouded leopards at the lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.

The research is supported by Yayasan Sime Darby, Robertson Foundation, Recanati-Kaplan Foun­dation, Clouded Leopard Project, Houston Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium and Panthera.

No comments:

Post a Comment