FCF Awards Grant for field survey in Vietnam
In June of 2010 the FCF Granted $800 to the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program’s (CPCP) field survey for Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata) and Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) in the Ke Go-Khe Net lowlands of Central Vietnam. The survey has now finished and the results are in. Sadly, the results of this survey paint a damning picture of the failings of yet another “Protected Area” in Vietnam. Daniel Wilcox provides the following update following nearly a year long survey.
Small Cat Populations Decimated in the Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands, Central Vietnam
The Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands is in Central Vietnam, which is an area that contains a range of highly diverse and endemic mammalian taxa, including Ha Tinh langur (Trachypithecus laotum hatinhensis), Gaur (Bos gaurus) and Giant Muntjac (Megamuntiacus vuquangensis). The Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands is one of the largest (48, 401 ha) patches of lowland broadleaf evergreen forests in the Annamese Lowlands and is made up of two Protected Areas; Ke Go Nature Reserve and Khe Net Nature Reserve. The central area has a range of low hills (not reaching over 500m) and a network of permanent rivers and streams dissects the landscape. The Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands forms the perfect habitat for some of the South-east Asia’s rarest small and medium-sized cats, including Marbled Cat and Clouded Leopard. Asiatic Golden Cat (Pardofelis temminckii) and Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) have also been previously recorded in the landscape, the former through interview data and the latter through a direct observation way back in 1996. Despite the rarity of this habitat type and its obvious importance to conservation, the only survey work of any note was done in the late 1990’s, and this was focused on birds. The CPCP therefore designed this field survey to establish what the conservation status of small cats and other carnivores was in the Ke Go – Khe Net Lowlands, as these taxa had been neglected up until now.
The 2010 survey which was supported by a grant from the FCF, focused on the hill range that stretches through the middle of the landscape. This hill range supports some of the least disturbed primary forest in the landscape. Survey methods included diurnal searches for scats and tracks, nocturnal spotlighting walks and camera-trapping. Nocturnal spotlighting focused on trails and pathways that went through primary forest. Camera-traps were placed in a variety of locations including on man-made pathways and logging roads, near streams and on animal trails.
In total there was 101 hours of nocturnal spotlighting, 81 hours of diurnal searches for scats and tracks and 1482 camera trap nights. Despite this high survey effort, not a single cat species was recorded. Not even the “common” leopard cat. Several other species of small to medium-sized mammals were recorded during the survey including Small-toothed Palm Civet, Large Indian Civet, Common Palm Civet, Stump-tailed Macaque, Pygmy Loris and Malayan Porcupine, though most of these species only produced single records.
“Why were no wild cats recorded?” is a question that needs answering and it became rapidly apparent during the surveys that the likely culprits were people.
Over the two surveys, the CPCP’s field team observed and recorded over 1200 cable-snare traps, drift fence for funneling the animals into snare traps (totally nearly two kilometers in length), and 17 illegal camps (two of which were clear hunting camps and contained around 110 cable-snare traps between them). In addition to this, people (a total of 88) were recorded illegally encroaching into the protected areas on a regular, often daily, basis. Approximately 121 domestic buffalo were also recorded inside the Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands. While most buffalos were involved in dragging illegally harvested timber out of the forest, some appeared feral and may even be breeding inside the Nature Reserves (several young calves and juveniles were observed). Most of the large (Diameter-Breast-Height of over 40cm) trees have now disappeared from both the core and edge areas and there is almost no undisturbed forest remaining throughout the landscape, even at the top of some of the more inaccessible hills which were the focus for the 2010 survey.
Unfortunately the findings of this survey are not unique to the Ke Go-Khe Net Lowlands and the current Protected Area network in Vietnam is failing. Illegal hunting is widespread and the continued apathy of provincial and central level governments is destroying what little wildlife is left in Protected Areas. Hunting and the illegal wildlife trade has almost completely destroyed Vietnam’s wildlife; the last rhino in Vietnam was shot last February, Asian elephant number less than 20 and Delacour’s langur (an endemic species of primate) are less than 300.