KOTA KINABALU: Scientists have tagged a wild female leopard cat with a satellite collar during a night survey in Kinabatangan in hopes of better understanding the species.
The tagging was part of the Danau Girang Field Centre's (DGFC) Carnivore Programme, carried out in collaboration with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).
DGFC director Dr Benoit Goossens said this project could help scientists evaluate the impact of habitat fragmentation and ranging patterns of this species in the Kinabatangan landscape.
He said leopard cats, and the potential for disease transmission between it and domestic animals, provided a relevant model to evaluate the potential health risks threatening other species, such as flat-headed cats and marbled cats.
Dr Miriam Kunde, project leader and carnivore conservation officer at DGFC, said the tagging would allow them to monitor the movement of the cat which they had named Ratu (queen).
"We hope to study their movements through this fragmented landscape, and to understand how such a resilient species utilises both landscapes - forest and oil palm plantation - to survive," she said.
They also hope to collar more leopard cats during the duration of the project.
The Carnivore Programme is in tandem with DGFC's Health at the Edge Project (H@EP), led by Dr Sergio Guerrero-Sanchez and Dr Liesbeth Frias, who are both research associates at DGFC.
"Our project aims to tackle health-related problems from an integrated ecological, veterinary and human health approach," said Dr Frias.
"For this particular component of the project, we are targeting leopard cats as sentinels to assess the potential effects of anthropogenic disturbance on the health of Bornean cat populations," he said.
He said leopard cats can be found inhabiting a broad range of habitat types, including oil palm plantations and by using them as a model species, they aim to assess cross-species transmission at the wildlife-human interface.
Dr Guerrero-Sanchez said this was because their home ranges can potentially overlap those of domestic carnivores in plantations, and those of more vulnerable cats in adjacent forests.