KOTA KINABALU: Diminishing habitats as well as climate change is posing a serious risk to Borneo cats and small carnivores.
According to a study carried out by an international research team, the conservation status of the carnivores is particularly worrying.
The research team under the leadership of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission had recently published a roadmap for better protection of Borneo’s cats and small carnivores.
It stated that some of these animal species include the flat-headed cat and the otter civet.
The roadmap emphasised more targeted conservation efforts for Bornean cats and small carnivores in a special supplement of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology to serve as a catalyst for future collaborative conservation initiatives.
Dr Andreas Wilting, scientist at the IZW, said these two species were lowland and wetland specialists, which are well equipped to hunt fish with their webbed feet.
But to do so, they require natural wetlands — habitats which are rapidly shrinking.
He pointed out that peat lands and lowlands in Indonesia which were burning for months last year had increased the threat of extinction of these species.
John Mathai, lead author of the carnivore community paper in the supplement and a wildlife ecologist from Sarawak, said equally threatened but restricted to the highlands are Hoses civet and Bornean ferret badger.
He explained that these highland species are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate, but also habitat changes.
Besides changes in climate and habitat, threats from illegal hunting, bushmeat trade and forest and peatland fire, the major conservation issue facing Bornean carnivores is the lack of awareness on the gravity of the problem, Mathai said.
Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said more joint conservation efforts were needed with the oil palm and forestry sectors to protect the diversity of carnivores in Borneo.