Bearcat Study Program at the Palawan Island
According to the IUCN, the binturong conservation status is VULNERABLE. Over the past 18 years, its population has decreased by at least 30%. It is indeed strongly hit by deforestation, and also illegal trafficking and poaching. South Asia experiences a fast development, stimulated by a strong economic growth that may be detrimental to the natural environment. Palm oil, rubber tree and teak plantations lead to a massive deforestation, compelling species living on forest resources to get closer to men. This cohabitation is generally difficult, and most often at the animal’s expense.
Moreover, until now, very little research has been undertaken on the bearcat. Most of today available data on the bearcat has been collected from captive animals whose behaviour differs from the behaviour of the ones that may be observed in the wild. Thus, we do lack knowledge on bearcat behaviour in the wild, especially regarding reproduction, raising the youth, interactions between individuals, food habits, moving patterns… Without this knowledge, we cannot develop correctly a conservation program adapted to the ecology and biology needs of the bearcat.
The bearcat of Palawan is an endemic species. It’s the only island in the Philippines where we can observe it. The binturong of Palawan is considered as a subspecies which is very different from other populations of South-East Asia. This subspecies is only found in Palawan.
The Bearcat Study Program is a conservation program with the aims to improve the knowledges on the bearcat in various areas (reproduction, raising the youth, interactions between individuals, food habits), to update its UICN status in case of need using the data collected from the field, and to sensitize (by sharing the collected data) the Island residents with the collaboration of the local authorities.
- Understanding a species, it’s to protect it too -
First stage: February 2017 to December 2018
- October 2016, tree-climbing training in France. Regular training in Asia from December 2016 to February 2017 (the beginning of the study).
- From December 2016 to February 2017: meeting with potentional partnerships, meeting with chiefs and captains of the barangays with the aim of obtaining the research permit.
- March 2017: Obtention of the research permit, and signature of an agreement with City ENRO (City Environment & Natural Resources Office), City Government of Puerto Princesa and PCSD (Palawan Council For Sustainable Development).
- From January to February 2017: first scouting trip to identify places suitable as study sites.
- February and March 2017: Set up camera traps on the ground and tree tops (between 10 and 30 meters high) in the barangay of Langogan.
- Every two weeks, replacement of the memory cards and the batteries by two local guides employed by ABConservation.
- Transfer of data on the hardware disk by two volunteers of Langogan.
- Collecting and processing data by the scientific officer in June, December 2017, between February & July2018, and between September & December 2018.
Second stage: From February 2018 to December 2019 (being financed)
Scientific part: improving the knowledge on the bearcat with radiotracking
Radio tracking timeline of 2018-2019
Before starting the study on the field
• September 2017 – September 2018 Manufacturing of 4 radio collars by the Australian firm Wildspy
• February 2018 – October 2018 Test of the radio collars on the captive bearcat in its enclosure from PWRCC
As soon as radio collars are ready, the radio tracking of wild binturong in Palawan Island will start.
- Recruitment of one volunteer to observe binturongs and to be a research assistant
- From February to April 2018: capture of wild binturongs by means of cage-traps with live baits
- Marking of the wild animal captured (census)
- Taking hair samples for future genetic surveys (made by Doctor Géraldine Veron, at the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, France)
- Taking body measurements (height and weight)
- Equipping the binturongs with a radio-collar before their release
- From February 2018 to April 2019: radio-tracking binturongs
- Collecting of data by GPS and VHF
- 2018-2019: treatment of data by the scientific officer and the research assistant
Educational part: raise people’s awareness
The goal is to promote the bearcat, to share our knowledge about it, and to explain why is important to protect it through different educational activities.
• The 12th of May, because it will be the World Bearcat Day
• During a special day for celebrating the wildlife
Different activities could be proposed like a giant gaming board, activities around the conservation, the creation of enrichment for