Assessment of the wild cat population status and the impact of hunting on felids and their prey

We aim to gain knowledge of the hunting impacts on the Sunda Clouded Leopard and its prey, and obtain a long-term dataset to assess (temporal fluctuations in)  the population status of the Bornean wild cats in Bukit Batikap Protection Forest, a primary tropical lowland evergreen forest in Central Kalimantan, Borneo.

 

Research Objectives

– Gain knowledge of hunting impacts on clouded leopard and its prey

– Assess the population status of the wild cats in Bukit Batikap

– Increase national conservation capacity

The impact of hunting practices on species is a complex and heated topic that touches on issues of culture and indigenous rights, health and food poverty, economics, politics, and conservation. Perhaps because of this complexity arguments about the impact of hunting are largely based on assumptions: local people assume their rights, conservationists assume the impact is large and unnecessary, and politicians sway one way or another depending on their agenda.

Yet very little research into the actual impact of hunting on population dynamics has been published, so it is practically impossible to take an informed stance.

From a conservationists point of view, hunting is often considered of secondary importance when assessing anthropogenic impacts on tropical rainforest, as large scale impacts such as habitat destruction and degradation are far more apparent. However, it is still a major threat around the world. In Southeast Asia it is practiced virtually everywhere that people live near or in the forest, possibly having significant impact on its vertebrate fauna, and thus indirectly on the whole ecosystem.

Many indigenous and local communities in Borneo rely almost entirely on hunting and fishing for their protein intake, and always have done. These activities are also fundamental to indigenous peoples’ sense of identity and culture. To tell a Dayak he cannot hunt is to tell and Englishman he cannot meet his friends for a pint in the local pub.

However it is not clear that hunting levels are still sustainable, given the reality of growing and settled communities, with more efficient technologies such as the rifle. A crash in local populations of major food sources could be as devastating event as a failed harvest for a community that relies on that food source, so it is in everyone’s interest to sensitively obtain some quantitative data that can help all parties understand any impact and form an appropriate response.

So, we are assisting local communities in Kalimantan to measure and understand the impact of current hunting practices. We’re using a mixture of camera traps, placed by local people trained in their use, and interviews with hunters about their activities and with women about the contents of their meals, in order to gather the basic data.