KOTA KINABALU: The Sunda clouded leopard is becoming the target of poachers, with a study by the Oxford University showing there are fewer than 800 animals left in Sabah.
The study by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) from Oxford University showed the number of these wild cats are dwindling.
WildCRU’s Dr Andrew Hearn said they had evidence that poaching activities and deforestation were affecting the population of these leopards.
“We found evidence of poaching activities with the lowest detection rates in Danum and the highest in Kinabatangan.
“We estimated the size of the population of Sunda clouded leopards to be around 750 in Sabah,” he said, adding that the information was gathered following six years of study on the animals.
He said they conducted intensive camera-trap surveys at eight protected areas in Sabah and individual animals were identified based on the cloud-shaped markings on their coat and the morphology.
He said the study also showed that there were huge differences in the population, with more of these animals in areas with less forest activities.
The study was carried out in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Danau Girang Field Centre, Sabah Wildlife Department and Panthera, a conservation group.
Danau Girang Field Centre director Dr Benoit Goossens said the fact that selectively logged forests provided an important resource for the leopards suggested that appropriate management of these commercial forests could further enhance their conservation value.
“But the overriding priority for our wildlife managers is to reduce poaching pressure – by reducing access to the forest interior along logging roads and by increasing enforcement patrols at strategic areas,” he said.
He said he hopes that the results of the study – together with the action plan for the leopard that is currently being drafted and which should be launched by early next year – would help manage the species in Sabah.