Written by Dr. Susan Cheyne (BNF International Co-director)
It started in late 2007 with a question: did clouded leopards live in peat-swamp forest? There was some anecdotal evidence: BNF forestry coordinator Santiano’s father said he had seen clouded leopards while collecting jelutong (Dyera polyphylla) rubber in the forest. It was on this evidence that BNF International Co-director, Dr Susan Cheyne, in collaboration with WildCRU, University of Oxford, brought 20 camera traps to the Natural Laboratory of Peat-swamp Forest (NLPSF), a special zone within the Sebangau National Park, in May 2008.
It took 5 weeks before we got our first cat: a leopard cat. This was really exciting, but we wanted the clouded leopard. Happily, after 8 weeks, in July 2008 we were rewarded by the first-ever photo of a clouded leopard in peat-swamp forest and in Sebangau National Park.
Since 2008 we have had a permanent survey operating in NLPSF, Sebangau National Park. We have carried out short surveys (3-6 months) in 6 sites across Central and East Kalimantan, and we have established another long-term camera trap survey in the Rungan Landscape. Throughout this time, we have increased our knowledge of camera traps, techniques, data analysis, and biodiversity presence. We are now experts on setting camera traps and analyzing these data and understanding cats in Indonesian Borneo.
Of particular mention is Adul, BNF Camera Trap Coordinator. Adul has helped lead this research since the early days. He is invaluable in selecting locations for cameras, developing new ideas for research, helping students, training other researchers, managing the data, and helping launch the Indonesian Forum Macan (Clouded Leopard Forum) to really promote sharing of carnivore information between sites in Indonesia.
In 2018 we will start another long-term camera trap project in the mountains and continue our efforts in Sebangau and Rungan Landscape. 10 years is a long time to carry out a research project, but we are learning more every day, and the more we learn, the more informed we are to help conserve these animals.