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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Clouded leopards, the secretive top-carnivore of South-East Asian rainforests: their distribution, status and conservation needs in Sabah, Malaysia

Andreas Wilting1*, Frauke Fischer1, Soffian Abu Bakar2 and K Eduard Linsenmair1

Author Affiliations

1 Theodor-Boveri Institute of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, Institute of Biosciences, University of Würzburg, 97074 Würzburg, Germany

2 Sabah Wildlife Department, Blok B, Wisma Muis, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

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BMC Ecology 2006, 6:16  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-6-16

Published: 8 November 2006

Abstract

Background

The continued depletion of tropical rainforests and fragmentation of natural habitats has led to significant ecological changes which place most top carnivores under heavy pressure. Various methods have been used to determine the status of top carnivore populations in rainforest habitats, most of which are costly in terms of equipment and time. In this study we utilized, for the first time, a rigorous track classification method to estimate population size and density of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in north-eastern Borneo (Sabah).

Additionally, we extrapolated our local-scale results to the regional landscape level to estimate clouded leopard population size and density in all of Sabah's reserves, taking into account the reserves' conservation status (totally protected or commercial forest reserves), their size and presence or absence of clouded leopards.

Results

The population size in the 56 km2 research area was estimated to be five individuals, based on a capture-recapture analysis of four confirmed animals differentiated by their tracks. Extrapolation of these results led to density estimates of nine per 100 km2 in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The true density most likely lies between our approximately 95 % confidence interval of eight to 17 individuals per 100 km2.

Conclusion

We demonstrate that previous density estimates of 25 animals/100 km2 most likely overestimated the true density. Applying the 95% confidence interval we calculated in total a very rough number of 1500–3200 clouded leopards to be present in Sabah. However, only 275–585 of these animals inhabit the four totally protected reserves that are large enough to hold a long-term viable population of > 50 individuals.