Amongst the clouds

September 11, 2017

For over five years now, we’ve been undertaking the biggest ever camera-trapping study of the guild of wild felids that live alongside clouded leopards throughout SE Asia, writes David Macdonald, as WildCRU celebrates the first paper to be published on both clouded leopards and marbled cats in continental Asia.

The research, led by WildCRU’s Priya Singh involved a huge grid of 160 camera traps deployed in the Dampa Tiger reserve of NE India. It’s a tough place to work and Priya is a remarkable fieldworker – her cameras revealed photos of armed poachers and insurgents, along with remarkable biodiversity. The paper by Priya and myself is published in the Journal of Mammalogy which happily also carries a cover photo of a clouded leopard.

We used spatially explicit capture-recapture methods to estimate clouded leopard densities at 5.14 (± 1.80 SD)/ 100 km2 and marbled cat densities 5.03 (± 2.07 SD)/ 100 km2.  These are amongst the first dots on a graph that will hopefully one day reveal patterns in the population densities of these and other felids across their range, and enable us better to understand their ecology and their guilds. The camera images allowed us to compare activity overlaps between 5 species of carnivores found in Dampa, which include the clouded leopard, marbled cat, golden cat, leopard cat and the dhole. Among felids, clouded leopards shared the highest activity overlap with golden cat, while marbled cat and leopard cat the lowest. Leopard cats were almost entirely nocturnal while marbled cats’ diurnal.

Read more about our Clouded Leopard Programme.