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Due to their secretive behaviour, nocturnal habits and low densities, there has …


Biology Articles » Ecology » Correspondence regarding 'Clouded leopards, the secretive top-carnivore of South-East Asian rainforests: their distribution, status and conservation needs in Sabah, Malaysia' » Conclusions

Conclusions
- Correspondence regarding 'Clouded leopards, the secretive top-carnivore of South-East Asian rainforests: their distribution, status and conservation needs in Sabah, Malaysia'

Conclusion

We appreciate Wilting et al.’s [2] attempt to further knowledge on a poorly known species, which, as one of the top predators in Borneo, likely plays an important ecological role. We disagree, however, with their far-reaching conclusions regarding population densities and regional estimates, which find little support in the data provided. Furthermore, the authors claim that they have found a method of studying even secretive cats in tropical rainforests using thorough quantitative track surveys to identify individuals. Yet they had no independent method to check their trackbased conclusions. Track surveys in tropical forest areas are a quick and inexpensive technique to determine the presence of a certain species [22] and could assist with the decision of where to place cameras or cage traps. However, when estimating total population size, this method should be used in conjunction with the more reliable and proven techniques of camera trapping and radio-collaring.

While Wilting et al. [2] point out that they are the first to provide population estimates of clouded leopards in Sabah, this estimate is in danger of becoming a “quoted fact”. In fact, this is already happening. Recent global media attention to the taxonomic upgrade of the Sundaic clouded leopard (N. diardi) to species level was accompanied by population estimates similar to, and possibly based on those by Wilting et al. [23].

In conservation planning it often happens that with a lack of reliable data, any available data are used to determine conservation priorities, especially when original sources are no longer consulted. Misguided information can be a powerful factor in guiding conservation policy and funding away from where it is most needed.

Conservation scientists should therefore ensure that they provide reliable data, and if these are not available, refrain from making quantitative statements on the status or population trends of species. With that in mind, we find it important to point out some of the methodological weaknesses in Wilting et al.’s work, allowing those less familiar with the species or survey methodologies to put their conclusions in perspective.


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