It is terribly important that the land remains continuous so that it offers the cover needed for these animals to disburse, hunt and find mates. If land fragmentation occurs, these highly endangered big cats will be immediately isolated and face imminent extinction.
Some parts of the landscape have already become cut off by encroaching development. In response the local Malaysian state government developed a plan to restore connectivity between four fragmented forests by creating a network of 17 landscape linkages. However, all is not well. Within one of these linkage sites in the Tembat Forest Reserve, the wildlife faces an urgent threat as land continues to be converted to rubber plantations and infrastructure development. This is happening right where recent monitoring of the area revealed the presence of 10 tigers and five leopards. More and more signs of encroaching encampments and use of snares are being reported.
To get the land legally protected we have to show evidence of these elusive creatures to the authorities. We need to set up130 camera traps urgently over 100 km2 to prove how vital the area is before it’s too late. We are funding Reuben Clements from local NGO Rimba to do just this.
65 camera-trapping stations are being set up every 2 km in the forest with two cameras at each site. They are positioned along trails most likely to be used by the big cats. The cameras are placed opposite each other to get shots of both sides of the animal to help with individual identification so that there’s no double counting and we can prove that numerous individuals are present. The cameras will operate continuously over six months. Once the photographic evidence is collected, the data will reveal the population densities of the tigers, leopards and clouded leopards and, indeed, any other large carnivores that live there. The evidence will be immediately used to lobby the state government to designate this vital habitat corridor as a protected area and curb the encroachment of the rubber plantations once and for all.