This camera-shy leopard is part of our latest project update courtesy of Laurie, our current volunteer who’ll be with us till February next year. Besides helping to hold the fort for Reuben’s project up in Gerik, Laurie’s main mission is to test out the efficacy of hair traps in the Malaysian rainforest – something he’s started trialing since he joined us in September. This pilot project is part of our ongoing mammal surveys in Perak and Terengganu and was made possible through generous funding from the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
Laurie and Reuben have been conducting these trials for a new way to shed light on the status of one of the more rare and elusive species of carnivore. So far, Dholes or Asiatic Wild Dogs (Cuon alpinus) have been detected several times at both of these locations. Yet very little is known about this endangered animal, and in an environment notorious for its difficulty to detect species at low density, the challenges in monitoring them are substantial. If hair samples could be collected from these, or other carnivores, they will put together a larger proposal to study their population/density/range size, group association, genetic relationships.
But how to get these samples? One way we’re testing is to lure the animals to a rub station – a section of astro turf matting nailed to either a tree or a wooden board, using a solution of fatty acid as bait. If the dholes catch the scent of the bait, the hope is that, like any other dog, they’ll rub up against the pungent odour on the astro turf and deposit hairs onto the mat (we did try this out on domestic kitties first, with some moderate success!).
So how are they doing? Laurie reports:
So far we’ve deployed six stations along the Kuala Berang highway in Kenyir and along the Gerik-Jeli highway in Belum-Temengor. We left video camera traps at each one to monitor their effectiveness. We’ve already captured videos of Leopard, Golden Cat, Common Palm Civet, Barking Deer, Mouse deer, Malayan Porcupine and an elephant (who unhelpfully destroyed the traps…). So far none of the carnivores have rubbed against the stations. It could be the scent isn’t too appealing to the felids and viverrid, or they’re put off by the astro turf mat. However, we’re testing different designs and these are still early days! The traps and scent were effective for dingos in Australia so we have high hopes that the dholes here will oblige for us. Let’s just hope we can find some…
Below, you can take a look at some of the videos Laurie’s collected to date. See what the elephant thought of our hair traps!
Big thanks to Mohamed bin Zayed!