February 16, 2010

Rare Leopard Caught On Video

A newly identified and rare species of big cat in Borneo has been caught on film for the first time.

The Sundaland clouded leopard was caught on video at night at the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysian Borneo's Sabah state. 

"What surprised us was that while clouded leopards are very elusive cats, this one was not scared at all," said Azlan Mohamed, a field scientist with University Sabah Malaysia.

"Despite our powerful spot lights and the roar of our vehicle's engine, it walked around our vehicle calmly," Mohamed told AFP.

"It is rare to see the big cat in the wild. These cats are usually shy of humans, it was by chance we caught it on video."

The 3 foot long cat was classified as a new species through genetic studies several years ago and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature decided to label it as endangered in 2008.

Before this find, all clouded leopards living in Southeast Asia were considered to be the same species.

Mohamed said the new species is the biggest predator on Borneo, which is an island between Malaysia and Indonesia.  Logging and plantations have brought pressure to the island's wildlife habitats.

Little is known about the rare leopard due to their nocturnal habits, secretive behavior and small numbers. 

According to Mohamed, researchers did find the remains of a samba deer that was killed by one of the big cats.

Mohamed is a part of a research team that focuses on carnivores in Sabah.

Environmentalists say the clouded leopard faces the threat of poaching, rapid deforestation and the growth of Borneo's rubber and oil-palm plantations in its natural habitat.

Mohamed said Dermakot Forest Reserve is also home to four other threatened wild cats.  This reserve stretches 190 square miles and has been commercially logged for a long time.

Images have been captured in Dermakot by 60 camera traps of the marbled cat, flat-headed cat, leopard cat and Borneo bay cat.

"These small cats feed on rats and mice," he said.

According to Mohamed, the team was surprised to find all five of the cat species in Dermakot, along with four of them in the neighboring Tangkulap Forest Reserve.

Image Courtesy A Wilting/A Mohamed


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