Study of small carnivores has been quite restricted in Nepal. This project aims to explore the presence/absence and status of small carnivores in eastern Nepal focused on binturong. Major contribution of the project will be a documentation of presence/absence and status of small carnivores (focusing binturong), identification of threats to small carnivores, and sensitization among students and local community about small carnivores in the Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale complex of eastern Nepal.
Fieldwork for the project was conducted in field from November 4 to December 4 using transect survey and camera trap survey. Overall survey was conducted in two phase. During first phase, 16 camera traps were installed in trails, ridges, water holes and dens considering the sign of wildlife in Gupha-Khoping-Hile-Gidde-Gauthale-Chitre pokhari-Pyangkot-Khoping-Gufa area. Each camera traps were installed for minimum 15 trap nights in this phase. Strip transect was purposively conducted following the existing trails. Signs of mammal like pugmark, scat, scrapes and feeding sites were photographed and their geo-location were recorded using GPS unit.
A total of 14 camera traps were installed in second phase in Lampokhari-Akkare deurali-Mencheyam-Vuje deurali-Yangsijung-Shrijung area. Camera trap were installed for minimum 9 days for during this phase. Trails, water holes and dens were selected for camera trap installation. Similarly, strip transect was also done to record the sign of wildlife using photographs and GPS unit in this phase. Field guides (Baral & Shah, 2008; Menon, 2014) were used to identify mammals captured in camera-traps.
Informal interviews were conducted with locals to find out the status of wildlife focused on small carnivores. The locals were asked about presence/absence, medicinal values and hunting information about small carnivores.
Results so far
The camera-traps were successful in capturing fifteen mammal species with five small carnivores of our interest viz. Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), red panda (Ailurus fulgens), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva) and yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula).
A total of 60.05 km of transect survey was conducted recording 85 signs of wildlife like scat, pugmark and pellets. Overall sign encounter rate was 1.41 sign per km.
Camera-traps and sign surveys didn't yield any evidence of binturong (Arctictis binturong). Informal interviews also failed to strongly support the presence of this species in TMJ. However, one herder described a species that was very close to it.
Next phase of the project
The next phase of the project consists of conservation activities. During this, conservation workshops will be conducted in school and local communities. Conservation materials have been designed and published.