Ecology, occurrence and distribution of wild felids in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Jayasilan Mohd-Azlan, Sally Soo Kaicheen, Lisa Lok Choy Hong, Melynda Cheok Ka Yi, Marius Joscha Maiwald, Olga E. Helmy, Jedediah F. Brodie, Anthony J. Giordano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Sarawak is the largest state in the megadiverse country of Malaysia. Its rich biodiversity is threatened by land-use change and hunting, with mammalian carnivores particularly affected. Data on the ecology, occurrence and distribution of small carnivores are crucial to inform their effective conservation, but no large-scale assessments have previously been conducted in Sarawak. Here we examine the status of the five species of felids in Sarawak based on data from camera-trap studies over 17 years (May 2003- February 2021) across 31 study areas, including protected areas of various sizes, production forests and forest matrix within oil palm plantations. Felids were detected at 39% of 845 camera stations. The marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata and Sunda clouded leopard Neofelis diardi had higher probabilities of occurrence in protected than unprotected areas, and vice versa for the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and bay cat Catopuma badia. The marbled and bay cats were mostly diurnal, and the leopard cat was predominantly nocturnal; activity patterns did not substantively differ between protected and unprotected sites. The probabilities of occurrence of marbled and bay cats increased with greater distance from roads. The leopard cat and flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps were more likely, and the clouded leopard less likely, to occur near rivers. Flat-headed cats preferred peat swamp forest, bay cats lowland forest, and marbled cats and clouded leopards occurred in both lowland and montane forest. Felids may tolerate higher elevations to avoid anthropogenic disturbance; therefore, it is critical to preserve lowland and mid-elevation habitats that provide refugia from climate change and the destruction of lowland habitat.

Original languageEnglish
JournalORYX
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Felids
  • fragmentation
  • habitat loss
  • land-use change
  • logging
  • occurrence
  • oil palm
  • protected area

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