Bearcat Study Program in Palawan Island
According to the IUCN, the conservation status of the binturong is Vulnerable. Indeed, in the past 18 years, its population is estimated to have declined by 30%. The main reasons of this decline are the extension of illegal trade (animals being sold for their meat, or as pets), as well as massive deforestation (the binturong is a strictly arboreal species, so it is highly threatened by the progressive loss of its natural habitat). South-East Asia is a developing area, which is fueled by a strong economic growth, sometimes at the expense of the local environment. There are more and more palm oil, hevea and teak crops, leading to a rapid deforestation that impacts the species living in these forests. Some species tend to get closer to villages, where cohabitation is usually complicated and detrimental for the animals. Logging modifies the structure of the forest and creates networks of roads, which promotes poaching.
Moreover, few studies have been undertaken on free-ranging binturongs so far, and there are many gaps in knowledge about this species: status of populations, behavior, territory, reproduction, diet. Yet, an understanding of its ecological and biological needs is an essential prerequisite to the creation of an adapted in situ conservation program.
Palawan Island is particularly interesting for the study of binturongs as it is the only island in the Philippines where its presence in the wild has been reported.
The Bearcat Study Program is a research and conservation program that aims to improve knowledge on binturongs in various areas (distribution, population status, and behavior in the wild) and to organize awareness-raising actions for the protection of biodiversity, working in partnership with local stakeholders and the government. The Bearcat Study Program includes two aspects: a scientific part and an education one, both of them combining for the aim of conservation.
Binturong – Let’s study, raise awareness, protect!
Timeline of the first step: October 2016 to 2022
Goal à Camera trapping
- October and november 2016 : the president and scientific officer received tree-climbing training, allowing them to safely use the appropriate equipment to climb the tall Asian trees, on which they would set up camera traps
- December 2016 to February 2017: Arrival in Puerto Princesa (main city of Palawan island) of the president on December 1st then the scientific officer on January 3rd. For 3 months, in order to obtain the research permit, they met potential partners and village chiefs an barangay (local municipalities) captains.
- February 2017: ABConservation signs a partnership with the City ENRO (City Environment & Natural Resources Office), the City Government of Puerto Princesa and the PCSD (Palawan Council For Sustainable Development). Obtention of the research permit for the Bearcat Study Program.
- January-February 2017: While carrying out the process to obtain the research permit, they went for a first spotting of interesting study sites by day and by night.
- February 2017: Set up of camera traps on pathways and in the canopy (between 5 and 20m high) in the barangay Langogan.
- February 2017 to December 2018: Collecting memory cards and change of batteries by two local guides from Langogan, hired by the association. They were already good climbers, and were trained to use tree-climbing equipment.
- April 2017 to February 2018: In the absence of the president and the scientific officer, two local volunteers owning a coffee farm in the valley of Langogan were in charge of collecting data and transferring it on external hard drives.
- June and December 2017, February 2018: Moving of 8 cameras, setting 10 new ones. Collection and treatment of data. Data analysis by ABConservation scientific officer Dr Agathe Debruille. First photograph of a binturong taken in September 2017.
- February 2018: Hiring of a volunteer scientific assistant until 4th July 2018, who analyzed data and organized educational activities.
- April 2019 : Change of location for the study site. Installation of cameras for 3 months, in the North of Palawan.
- July 2019 : First picture shot in the North of Palawan
- 2020: Planned installation of cameras in 3 new forest sites
Timeline of the second step: April 2018 to 2022
Goal à Radio tracking
Before beginning the study in the field
- September 2017 – February 2018: Making of a radio collar prototype by the Australian company Wildspy
- April 2018: Testing of the prototype on a captive binturong at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC)
- May 2018: Sending back the prototype to Wildpsy for them to build the definitive design with a neck size between 25 and 30cm.
- August 2018: ABConservation France is sent one radio collar
- 26th September 2018 : Departure of the scienfitic officer to Palawan, for at least a year
- April 2019 : Second test of the radio collar unsuccessful outcome
- August 2019 : Purchase of a new radio collar
- September 2018 – December 2019: Obtention of the final authorization from the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) before the start of the radio tracking
- 1st semester of 2020: plan to capture wild binturongs using specific baited traps
- The animals will be identified by microchips (survey)
- Traps will be checked twice daily, in the morning and evening
- Sampling of hairs for a gene bank
- Measurement of physical characteristics on the captured binturongs
- The binturongs will then be fitted with radio collars before their release and will be tracked with this method.
- 2nd semester 2020: Planned start of the tracking of wild individuals over several months, in collaboration with 3 local guides and 2 Filipino students
- Collecting data using GPS and VHF systems
- 2020-2022: Data analysis by the scientific officer and students
Educational part for 2017-2022 : Sharing knowledge with local people
Our aim is to promote the binturong, share our knowledge, and explain why it is important to protect it through various activities and events.
Carry on with conferences for students and educational interventions with inhabitants of Langogan and Puerto Princesa City.
- December 2017: Conferences on the binturong and the Bearcat Study Program for students at the Western Philippines University (WPU), “Endangered Species”.
- March 2018: Conference for the students at WPU, « Three different methods to monitors mammals: Bearcat Study Program »
- May 2018 – September 2018: Organization of the World Binturong Day in Langogan barangay and in Puerto Princesa City. Exhibition on the binturong in Langogan from mid-May to June 30th, then from July 1st to September 30th, 2018 at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (PWRCC).
- February 2019: Organization of the Bearcat Study Program anniversary in Langogan.
- March 2019: Conference for the WPU students and educational intervention for pupils of the Bukana primary school
- May 2019: Celebration of the World Binturong Day in Puerto Princesa and Langogan from 4th to 11th May 2019
- July 2019: Arrival of Murielle, our educational program officer
- Late 2019: Signature of a MOA with the Holy Trinity University and the Education department of Puerto Princesa for future professors training sessions, to raise awareness about protection of biodiversity
OUR PARTNERS ON THE
BEARCAT STUDY PROGRAM