With the work of the expedition in Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve back in full swing, a scientific article about five cat species (tiger, clouded leopard, golden cat, marbled cat, leopard cat) in Sumatra has just been published, examining how these species manage to coexist and the implications for their conservation on an island with high rates of forest loss and habitat degradation.
“[Cats] play a significant role ecologically as predators,” Sunarto Surnato, an ecologist with Virginia Tech and WWF Indonesia and the study’s principal researcher, told mongabay.com. “[T]hey control and influence the population number and also the behavior of other animals, especially their potential prey assemblage and this further affects the vegetation and the overall ecosystem, including the landscape.”
Using a large camera-trap study in five forested areas in Sumatra, the study camera-trapped all five species, there was only one location in which all five cat species were photographed together – Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, the expedition’s study site!
The authors write that their study has important implications for the conservation and management of the various cat species in the study area, and possibly beyond, noting that the remaining forests of Sumatra, including the degraded ones, still have a high conservation value for wild cats and other wildlife.
“[E]ven the critically endangered Sumatran tiger can achieve high abundance in such forests, likely because prey is still supported in these areas,” the authors write. “[D]espite the widespread perception that rainforest animals need intact forest, we suggest that in addition to intact forested areas, protection of secondary, even degraded forests, is highly beneficial to maintaining the increasingly threatened wild cats in Sumatra.”
For us on the expedition, this means that we need to continue to look at the more degraded areas on the fringes of Rimbang Baling Wildlife Reserve, as well as those hard-to-reach, remoter areas, away from people and disturbance, in our quest for wild tiger conservation. We wait for the next update from Anthony on how things are going…