The impact of land conversion and fragmentation on the predator-prey relationships in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

Project Description

Project responsible: Prof Benoit Goossens

Project coordinator: Dr Macarena Constanza Gonzalez Abarzua


Focal Species:

Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga)- IUCN status: Least Concern

Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) – IUCN status: Vulnerable

Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) – IUCN status: Vulnerable

Bearded pig (Sus barbatus) – IUCN status: Near threatened

Flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) – IUCN status: Endangered


Malaysia is considered a deforestation hotspot and approximately 94% of the deforestation is caused by the conversion of forest into oil palm plantation (OPP). This landscape alteration is a constant threat to wildlife as their suitable habitat continues to decrease.

In this project we aim to understand how predators (especially carnivores) and their prey move through a degraded and fragmented forest like the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (LKWS).

In order to understand each species for its conservation needs, each of focal species is studied separately under the same research goal. Assessing their movements (distribution range, home range and use of corridors) and activity patterns in different habitat types will help us understand the requirements of each species. These requirements will then allow us to develop conservation strategies to protect these species, the forest patches and wildlife corridors. Furthermore, it will help to improve the existing wildlife corridors, so viable populations of large carnivores and their prey can persist over time. All the results will be incorporated into the management plans of the area.

In order to answer these questions, we are currently using GPS collars to track the movements of clouded leopards, civets, leopard cats and bearded pigs. The advantage of using GPS collars relies on the amount of location points you get per day and the precision of them, without disturbing the animal on a regular basis. Also, it is also often the more feasible way to study the movement patterns of animals with large home ranges.

Many species do not occur in high densities in the LKWS and some are very difficult to encounter (for example, the flat-headed cat and the sun bear). As these animals are so elusive, we use camera traps to study them. Camera traps provide the opportunity to study animals without human disturbance and can be used for long periods of time, making it the ideal research tool for these species.

Using these methods, we expect to gain a better insight on how the rapid landscape alterations are impacting the local predator and prey populations (distribution, fitness and behaviour). With the GPS and camera trap data gathered we can predict how habitat fragmentation alter animal movement pattern and behavior as well as infer the habitat types and sizes that are more suitable for each species.

We work towards reaching a compromise between development and species conservation, as well as emphasizing local capacity building, encouraging and providing local students with research and training opportunities.



Sabah Wildlife Department

Universiti Malaysia Sabah



Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre

University of California, Berkeley





Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong

National Geographic.

Sime Darby Foundation