KOTA KINABALU: The Sunda clouded leopard will be the next endangered animal to be saved and protected in Sabah, said Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) director Dr Benoit Goossens.
Dr Goossens said an action plan will be drawn up after a three-day workshop organised by DGFC and the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), which will focus on recommendations on how to better protect the species.
The workshop is set to run from June 12 to 14 and will feature local and international scientists, governmental agencies as well as industry players.
“We hope that the state government will adopt the Sunda Clouded Leopard Action Plan for implementation to save the species, which is threatened by habitat loss and forest fragmentation in Sabah,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
Dr Goossens said the centre, SWD and collaborators from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), the University of Montana and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research have been collecting crucial information on Sunda clouded leopard populations in Sabah for the last 10 years.
He said this includes demography, behaviour, landscape ecology and genetics.
“During this project, we carried out surveys using camera traps in several protected areas such as Crocker Range, Tawau Hills Park, Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Kinabatangan, Malua, Ulu Segama, and Maliau Basin,” he said.
He added that the research findings showed that there are roughly 700 Sunda clouded leopards in Sabah.
Dr Goossens said these projects and efforts are made possible with a total commitment of RM3.96mil from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) since April 2011 to conduct research on three species over a six-year period.
The three species are the proboscis monkey, the Sunda clouded leopard and the Bornean banteng.
Meanwhile, YSD chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the Foundation was looking forward to the submission of the state action plan on the conservation of the proboscis monkey to the Sabah government.
DGFC is currently in the midst of drafting the plan to be submitted to the Sabah government.
This action plan is the product of a workshop and conference organised by DGFC and SWD four months ago, which focused on the conservation of the proboscis monkey.
Musa said it was crucial for the state action plan to be adopted and implemented by the Sabah government as it is backed by scientific research and expert opinions as well as input from industry leaders.
He added that he hoped the same would be replicated for the Sunda clouded leopard, which he said is one of his favourite animal species due to its sheer beauty.
"This species, like many others, is under severe threat from poachers, habitat loss and fragmented forest areas,” said Musa.
"We must act immediately and effectively to stop further decline in the population or risk losing a precious species that is vital to the ecosystem it inhabits," he added.