KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia - Wildlife researchers are now in a better position to draw up conservation plans following the capture of one of Sabah's most elusive wildlife animals, the Sunda clouded leopard.
The 25kg male animal was trapped in the lower Kinabatangan region in Sabah's east coast and released after being fitted with a satellite tracking collar in a collaborative project between the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and research non-governmental organisations WildCRU and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).
SWD director Datuk Laurentius Ambu said information collected from the male leopard, including its movements over the next six months, would enable researchers to come up with effective measures in protecting the species.
"One of the major outputs of this long-term research programme will be the production of a state action plan for the leopard," he said.
SWD assistant director Dr Sen Nathan said a better understanding of the clouded leopard ecology and its habitats would enable conservationists to understand its behaviour and how habitat loss and fragmentation have impacted Sabah's biggest wild cat.
"We also hope that with more accurate data collected on its home range via satellite collars, we will be able to provide better management of the animal in modified landscapes," he added.
WildCRU researcher Andrew Hearn said the male Sunda clouded leopard was caught in a trap set along the Sungai Kinabatangan on Sept 15.
"Rarely seen, Sunda clouded leopards are amongst the most elusive and secretive of the world's wild cats, and remain one of the least understood," he said.
He said researchers managed to capture a female clouded leopard several days later but the 9kg animal was too small and old to be collared.
DGFC director Dr Benoit Goosens said the research programme is funded mainly by a RM1.46mil donation from Sime Darby Foundation with additional funding and support from the Atlanta Zoo, the Houston Zoo, the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, the Robertson Foundation, the Point Defiance Zoo and the Rufford Foundation.