Kota Kinabalu, Sabah -- (ReleaseWire) -- 12/10/2012 -- The Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) recently received a RM1.46 million funding from the Sime Darby Foundation for their project on the conservation of Sunda clouded leopards and sympatric carnivores in a fragmented landscape in Sabah. The project is also a collaboration with several partners including the WildCRU (Oxford University, UK), the University of British Columbia (Canada), Cardiff University and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.
The funding from the Sime Darby Foundation is in line with the Foundation's Big9 programme which is to protect and conserve nine endangered animals, most of which are indigenous to Malaysia. They are the sun bear, orangutan, Asian elephant, Sunda clouded leopard, hornbills, banteng, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger. So far, close to RM80 millions has been committed towards the conservation of these nine species. The total commitment from the Foundation for its environmental pillars is estimated at USD$35 million.
"The project aims to increase the conservation efforts for the Sunda clouded leopard as well as increase awareness of the species in Sabah, to build local capacity for carnivore field research in Malaysia and to gather essential ecological data that will enable the development of effective conservation measures to ensure the survival of Sunda clouded leopards in the fragmented landscape of contemporary Borneo," explained Datuk Dr Laurentius Ambu, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department.
"It will be a three-year project during which we will study the spatial ecology and habitat associations of the Sunda clouded leopard specifically in the fragmented landscape of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS)," said Dr Benoit Goossens, Director of the Danau Girang Field Centre and leader of the programme. "We will use state of the art satellite telemetry to investigate the spatial ecology and habitat use of Sunda clouded leopard and other threatened carnivores in the LKWS and see how the species respond to a highly degraded and fragmented landscape," added Goossens.
"We will also carry out intensive camera trap surveys tailored to estimate and investigate seasonal and annual variation in density of Sunda clouded leopards in LKWS. In addition, we will come up with detailed mapping of habitat corridors through and around oil palm plantations for clouded leopards and their prey, using camera-trap data and cutting-edge ecological connectivity analytical models," explained Goossens.
"The project will also see the development of an education programme, aimed primarily at children from schools in oil palm plantations, in collaboration with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan," added Goossens. "Education and capacity building have always been a priority for the Sime Darby Foundation, and as such, the project will also include training of two Malaysian master students," explained Goossens.
"The three year project will culminate with an international workshop on the conservation of the Sunda clouded leopard in Sabah and the results of this project will assist our Department to develop a State Action Plan for the clouded leopard in Sabah, and will hopefully increase awareness and appreciation of the species in the State and elsewhere," concluded Ambu.