Caught on camera: Five rare cat species in Sumatra

Camera traps capture images of rare wild cat species in Sumatra, and the World Wildlife Fund calls for protection of a forest corridor near Bukit Tigapuluh.

A World Wildlife Fund survey in Bukit Tigapuluh (Thirty Hills) has captured on camera the Sumatran tiger, clouded leopard, marbled cat, golden cat, and leopard cat — five of seven wild cat species known to exist on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

All of the wild cats were found in an unprotected forest corridor between the Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary in Riau Province. The area is threatened by encroachment and forest clearance for industrial plantations. WWF-Indonesia is urging companies and authorities to take immediate steps to save the valuable area, according to a November 16, 2011, press release.

Click on the images for an expanded view.

The Sumatran tigers were found in one of the last large blocks of lowland forest left on the island. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

WWF estimates that 400 Sumatran tigers still exist. The camera study revealed 226 in an unprotected corridor of forest. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

Clouded leopard. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

Clouded leopard. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

Marbled cat. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

The Asiatic golden cat is rarely seen by people. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

The leopard cat, along with the other species pictured here, depends on a densely forested habitat. But the forests of Sumatra are experiencing the highest rate of deforestation in the world. Copyright by WWF-Indonesia/PHKA

Karmila Parakkasi, coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia tiger research team, said:

Four of these species are protected by Indonesian Government regulations and are listed as threatened by extinction on the IUCN Red List. This underscores the rich biodiversity of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and the forest corridors that connect to it. These amazing cat photos also remind us of how much we could lose as more of these fragile forests are lost to logging, plantations and illegal encroachment.

During a three-month systematic sampling in the forest corridor this year, Parakkasi’s team used high-tech cameras with infrared triggers to record 404 photos of wild cats, including 226 of Sumatran tigers, 77 of clouded leopards, 4 of marbled cats, 70 of golden cats, and 27 of leopard cats.

Watch a video of Karmila Parakkasi setting camera traps

In May 2011, WWF-Indonesia released video footage from a camera trap, showing three young tiger siblings playing with a leaf. That footage was taken in the same area of the current wild cat photos.

Sumatra. Via Wikimedia

Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network Programme, said:

Unfortunately, much of the natural forest area in the landscape is threatened by large-scale clearance for industrial logging, pulp and paper, as well as illegal encroachment for palm oil plantation development.

The abundant evidence of these five wild cat species suggests that the concession licenses of companies operating in these areas, such as Barito Pacific, should be reviewed and adjusted according to Indonesian Ministry regulations, which state that concession areas with the presence of endangered species should be protected by the concessionaire.

At a WWF event in Jakarta on November 2, 2011, Indonesian Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan publicly stated his support for issuing a license for a forest ecosystem restoration scheme in Bukit Tigapuluh.

Bukit Tigapuluh is designated a “global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape” and is one of six landscapes the government of Indonesia pledged to protect at last year’s International Tiger Forum, or Tiger Summit, of world leaders in St. Petersburg, Russia.

After intensive surveys this year of the Bukit Tigapuluh and Tesso Nilo landscapes in Sumatra, the forest corridor between Rimbang Baling and Bukit Tigapuluh was found to contain the most wild cats.

Bottom line: World Wildlife Fund cameras set by Karmila Parakkasi and her team captured five of seven known cat species in Sumatra. WWF-Indonesia is urging companies and authorities to save the forest corridor between the Bukit Tigapuluh forest landscape and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary in Riau Province, according to a press release issued by WWF on November 16, 2011.

Read more at WWF Global

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