Improving knowledge to improve protection
PROGRAMME D'ETUDE DU BINTURONG //
BEARCAT STUDY PROGRAM
Palawan Island, Philippines
The main purpose of the project is to improve knowledge about the ecology of binturongs and determine their current population status, through scientific studies using camera-trapping and radio-tracking methods. This data is fundamental to create an adequate conservation program.
- Creating partnerships with local organisations such as government offices, universities and NGOs.
- Obtaining Official authorization for the research project.
- Creating a method of canopy camera trapping (5 to 20 meters high in the treetops) allowing to get a twofold increase in detection rate.
- Publishing a first scientific paper in “Our Palawan”.
- Participating in three national and international conferences to disseminate information
- Involving Filipino and French university students in the implementation of various research protocols.
- Mapping the distribution of binturongs on Palawan Island through the multiplication of study sites.
- Ecological study of the binturong through the use of arboreal camera trapping.
Setting up a radio tracking study on two binturongs and collecting new behavioral data on the species.
Study on binturong diet.
Study on how binturongs use the forest.
The challenge: a difficult animal to study
The binturong, in addition to being little known by the general public, has been very little studied by scientists. The majority of available data on its behavior, reproduction or diet comes from studies in captivity and only three studies were conducted in the wild, which gives only a vague insight of the size of its territory, its diet or interactions between individuals. The main reason why scientists are reluctant to study this animal is that the binturong is particularly difficult to observe because of its natural behavior. Indeed, as it lives between 10 and 20 meters high and is mostly active at night, conventional study methods often fail to provide accurate and reliable information. But, being driven by its passion, it takes more to stop ABConservation’s team!
Goals: improving knowledge to improve protection
Through the Bearcat Study Program, the goal of ABConservation is to improve knowledge about specific aspects of binturong ecology as well as to estimate the remaining number of individuals in the forest of Palawan Island. This knowledge is crucial to establish a conservation program that perfectly meets the needs of the species, because how can we protect something we do not understand?
The implemented studies focus on three themes:
- Distribution and density of binturong populations in Palawan.
- Feeding and social behavior of binturongs in Palawan.
- Interactions between binturongs and Palawan forests.
Our actions: targeted studies
Implementation of a new methodThe first two years of work were devoted to the implementation of an arboreal camera-trapping protocol, between 5 and 20 meters in height. Our team’s hard work resulted in considerably increased chances of observing binturongs by camera trapping.
Tree climbing- Langogan forest, Palawan island, Philippines. Credit M. Vergniol
Picture of a binturong obtained by camera trapping - Langogan forest, Palawan Island, Philippines
Study of binturong ecological preferences
Since February 2020, camera traps have been installed in various protected areas in order to highlight the preferences of binturongs in terms of environment and forest type. Data is currently being collected. It will allow us to assess the common characteristics in several areas in which the binturong is most frequently observed. We will be able to categorize the different habitats of Palawan, according to their adequacy to meet the needs of binturongs, and the selected features will be useful to restore areas that were initially hostile for this species.
Understanding the links between the binturong and the forest
Using data obtained by camera trapping, but also thanks to the tracking of wild individuals using GPS-equipped radio collars, we have started to collect a lot of data on the behavior of the binturong and how it uses its territory. This information is very varied in nature, as our objectives include identifying the species of trees used for shelter, for feeding or to give birth, but also determining the necessary vital space for a binturong individual.
All our study results are reported in scientific publications, most of which are in open access. For more information, check the dedicated section.
Stakeholders in the field: an international and multidisciplinary team
The scientific team in the Philippines includes a total of five Filipino employees - our research project coordinator (under recruitment), Adok, Marlon, Papa, and Ray, our guides in the forest - and is led by a French woman, the association's co-president and scientific officer, Agathe Debruille. We are also supervising one Filipino student during her internship for her Masters degree, Alexes Mae Diaz, and many volunteers regularly join to help us. We particularly wish to thank Jacqueline Baut, Arvee Salazar and Dennis Van Rooyen for their support and commitment to our program.
The project also draws its strength from its various partnerships and the people managing them: Atty Carlo B. Gomez and Myla S. Adriano (City-ENRO), Dr Tuquero (Palawan State University), Melinda and Chris Walsh (Sabuya Coffee Trading) and the entire team of Katala Foundation.
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