Nov 17

A WWF camera trap survey has captured photographs of five wild cat species in a threatened Sumatran forest.

Photo of a male Sumatran tiger

The Sumatran tiger is a Critically Endangered species

Photogenic felines

Many species of wild cat can be somewhat secretive, but this latest camera trap survey, carried out in a threatened forest corridor which links Bukit Tigapuluh forest and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary in Riau Province, has yielded some wonderful images.

Five different species of wild cat were photographed in the as-yet unprotected area of forest in Sumatra, Indonesia’s largest island, including the Sumatran tiger which is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Photographs were taken of the Sunda clouded leopard, also known as Diard’s clouded leopard, and the marbled cat, which are classified as Endangered and Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List respectively. Two further felids captured on camera were the elusive Asian golden cat and the small leopard cat.

Photo of a male marbled cat

Male marbled cat

Deforestation

Sumatra suffers from one of the highest levels of deforestation in the world, and since 1985 has lost half of its forest cover, according to a detailed report released by WWF. With approximately half a million hectares of forest being cleared annually, Sumatra has become a focus in the fight to save the rainforests.

Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN) programme, highlighted the main threats to the area’s forests and biodiversity: “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.”

Photo of a captive leopard cat at night

Leopard cat

Threatened forests

Part of Bukit Tigapuluh forest has been designated as a national park and therefore is protected, yet forests surrounding the park, which have already been selectively logged, are now at risk of being completely cleared.

Except for the leopard cat, all of the species caught on camera in WWF’s survey are protected by Indonesian government regulations.

This underscores the rich biodiversity of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and the forest corridors that connect to it,” says Karmila Parakkasi, coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia Tiger Research Team. “These amazing cat photos also remind us of how much we could lose as more of these fragile forests are lost.

Capturing images of five different cat species is certainly an impressive feat, although the largest number of cat species reported to be present in a single habitat was in a recently protected forest in India, where seven were recorded.

Photo of a Diard's clouded leopard resting on board walks

Diard's clouded leopard, also known as the Sunda clouded leopard

Action for protection

Aditya Bayunanda believes that the presence of these fascinating cat species should encourage the Indonesian government to take action to save the forest in which they live: “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.

As well as a variety of cats, Bukit Tigapuluh is home to thousands of other species, including Sumatran orang-utans and Sumatran elephants, and WWF-Indonesia hopes that the National Park will be expanded to better protect its biodiversity.

Read more on this story and see the camera trap images at Mongabay.com – Photos: five wild cat species documented in Sumatran forest imperiled by logging.

View photos and videos of cat species on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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