As we near the end of 2009, we have been receiving progress reports from several of our grant recipients. One is from Karabi Deka and Jimmy Borah whose project, “Status, distribution, and ecology of small cats in Assam, India with a focus on the clouded leopard as a flagship species,” received funding from the CLP. This is the first project we have supported outside of our usual area of emphasis in Southeast Asia. We received a number of requests for India-based projects this year. In fact, we had an all-time high number of proposals submitted in 2009. Although we wish we weren’t so limited in our ability to provide support, it’s exciting to see how the number of clouded leopard and small cat field efforts has boomed over the last few years. With such dedication to uncovering the ecology of these cats and bringing much needed awareness to local communities we are confident that the clouded leopard and other small felids have a promising future.
While the tiger and leopard have been long-studied in Northeast India, Karabi and Jimmy’s team has been investigating the six species of rarely-studied small wild cats in the region. Their work takes a multifaceted approach comprised of ecological research, conservation awareness, and training in field techniques. The team has already conducted educational presentations for elementary and college students as well as community members in areas surrounding protected areas in which their research is taking place. The college students are also trained in basic field techniques and provide assistance in the field.
The team has also produced and disseminated a Field Guide to the Small Cats of Assam and a poster to raise awareness of these species, most of which are completely unknown to local people. They also participated in a training program for members of the Assam Forest Department staff to learn wildlife monitoring techniques.
The team also initiated a camera trapping project in Nameri National Park. They are having some difficulty with access (no roads!) and interference by elephants (!) but trapping is ongoing. To augment the trapping data, Karabi and Jimmy have compiled secondary information from the Forest Department, local NGOs, and community members to document cat sightings. We will be posting their entire progress report on the website and wish them great success in the continuation of their conservation efforts.