Biological Research | WWF


 
	© Arnul Kohncke/WWF-Cambodia

Biological Research

Biological research helps in understanding the health, behavior, movement and range of species populations. Additionally, this information gives insight into the conservation impacts of WWF’s investment in the Eastern Plains Landscape and Mekong River region, allowing WWF to adjust and establish strategies and actions that best advance conservation goals. WWF-Cambodia has produced a number of peer-reviewed scientific publications which use novel and robust scientific methodologies to promote the conservation value of the landscape.

Research Activities

Key research activities include surveying species through extensive camera-trapping, the use of distance-based line transects for estimating tiger prey densities, scat-detection dogs surveys to search for large carnivores, DNA analysis of elephant dung for monitoring populations and animal movements, GPS collaring of a suite of charismatic species including dhole, Eld’s deer and beautiful Banteng, extensive inventory and collection of vegetation and flora, and photographic identification of Mekong dolphin individuals for population surveys.

Camera Traps

Camera trapping involves fastening a protected and camouflaged camera to a tree fixed with an infrared light that detects movement. Through strategically setting up camera traps, WWF is able to capture photos of many species in their natural habitat. WWF-Cambodia uses camera traps in order to try and document the presence of predator species such as tiger, clouded leopard, and golden cat. At the same time, WWF monitors the presence of prey species such as banteng, muntjac, wild pig, and more, as a crucial part of understanding the health of the ecosystem and the potential for tiger population growth and reintroduction.

Camera-trapping conducted between 2008 and 2012 took pictures of Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Asian Golden Cat, Marbled Cat, Leopard Cat and Jungle Cat showing high global conservation value of the EPL.

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Clouded Leopard Research

Recently the University of Oxford and WWF conducted research by using camera traps to document the presence and estimate density of Clouded Leopard in PPWS. The research recorded one Clouded Leopard that is believed to be a female.

Photo Identification of Mekong Dolphin Population

 A WWF survey team along with affiliated government staff performs photo identification surveys annually in order to estimate the population size, dynamics, and behavior of the Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River. The method of identifying and surveying Mekong dolphins is through photographing them, with particular focus on the dorsal fin, during a series of field excursions up and down the 200 km stretch of the species’ known habitat, from Kratie to the Lao border and back. Photo-identification is then conducted back in the office along with mark-recapture analysis which uses a mathematical model to estimate dolphin numbers.

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Researchers from WWF and the Fisheries Administration conduct photographic identification surveys ... 
	© WWF-Cambodia / NOU CHANVEASNA
© WWF-Cambodia / NOU CHANVEASNA

Line Transect Survey of Ungulate Densities

In essence line transect surveys involve marking lines or paths through a certain area,which are then regularly monitored and surveyed by field staff for species. There observations are then recorded in detail, and through analysis can determine approximate numbers of species.

Research was conducted in this manner, by WWF and the Cambodian government in order to estimate ungulate (hoofed species) densities in the Eastern Plains Landscape. Result from this study found the population of banteng in the Eastern Plains Landscape to be between 2,700-5,700 individuals. This is the world’s largest population of banteng given the estimated global population is approximately 5,900-11,000.

Besides banteng, the research also confirmed increased numbers of other large mammals including wild pig and muntjac in the area, all of which are important prey species for tiger.  

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	© FA / WWF
Wild pig
© FA / WWF
 
	© Fletcher & Baylis / WWF-Cambodia
Mondulkiri Protected Forest and Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary are home to the world largest population of banteng, listed by IUCN as globally endangered.
© Fletcher & Baylis / WWF-Cambodia

Auditory Sampling of Gibbons

Auditory sampling is a method used to monitor species that are more easily heard than seen, such as gibbons and various bird species. In 2009 WWF conducted a study to estimate gibbon’s distribution and population size through auditory sampling in PPWS. Gibbon's reside in the canopy of the forest and are difficult to view, however there loud, patterned calls make auditory sampling a viable option for auditory research.

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	© WWF Cambodia
Status and habitat of Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon in Mondulkiri.
© WWF Cambodia

GPS Collars

By placing GPS collars on species it is possible to trace the approximate location of species, thereby providing incredible information on the movements of individuals and groups, range size and pack behavior. In order to do this, researchers harmlessly capture the species and place GPS collars on them. At the end of the study the collars are either taken off or automatically fall off, depending on the technology.  

Future Research

In order to aid understanding of dhole, also known as Asiatic dog, pack behavior and range size, WWF in partnership with Wild Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, began tracking dhole populations using GPS collars in January of 2013.

In March 2013, WWF in partnership with the Smithsonian team plan to place GPS collars on two Eld’s deer  and two banteng individuals to try and learn more about their movement patterns and lifestyle as a prerequisite to being able to give them better protection.

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Find out more about WWF-Cambodia's projects and research through our Publications section.

Get the latest updates from the field in our News and Stories section.

View our projects through our News in Photos section. 

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Publications

WWF-Cambodia has produced a number of peer-reviewed scientific publications which use novel and robust scientific methodologies to promote the conservation value of the landscape.

A few examples include:

WWF 2050 Biodiversity goal

  • By 2050, the integrity of the most outstanding natural places on Earth is conserved, contributing to a more secure and sustainable future for all.