Yellow-throated marten

If I was to name, preferably at some sort of ecological-metaphorical gunpoint, the hands-down slickest small carnivore in the Annamites, odds are I would name the yellow-throated marten (Martes flavigula). Sure, sure, on some days Owston’s civet would get the nod, but I like to think that, on average, this jungle phantom would get my vote. Read more…

Spotted linsang

My Monday morning work efficiency in Vietnam is inversely proportional to the number of hours I spend singing karaoke the night before: this is a great truth. At 8:05 am I was propped at my desk at the WWF office, bleary-eyed, sipping high-octane café sua, flipping through camera trap photos taken in the Saola Nature Reserves. Read more…

Red-shanked douc

My Katu guide grips my shoulder and says “Shhhhh!” I freeze and peer into the forest around me expecting to see a small carnivore or wild pig. Perhaps if I’m really lucky I’ll get another glimpse of the elusive leopard cat. But my guide points up into the trees instead. “Khi, khi!” he says in a forceful whisper. There are monkeys above us. Read more…

Northern treeshrew

We had stumbled upon a leech goldmine: in an open patch of shrubby weeds we were finding more leeches than we had collected in the previous two days. At one point I had over twenty parasites wriggling in my left hand: imagine a fistful of small spaghetti strings come to life. Spaghetti strings that, if you don’t dunk them quickly enough into the tube in your other hand, will start feeding on you. It was great! In the midst of this frantic collecting my local guide pointed to something over my shoulder. Read more…

Marbled cat

I’ll make no bones about it: I’m fascinated by small cats. And so I’ll follow the leopard cat post with another housecat-sized feline. What is it about the small cats that draws my attention? For one reason they seem to be often overlooked. Mention the word tiger or leopard to someone and a vivid image immediately leaps to mind: black stripes on a blazing orange background or rosettes spotted across an amber coat. But ask the same person about the margay or kodkod or flat-headed cat and they would probably draw a blank. And with good reason: the tiger’s smaller cousins get far less publicity. They also receive far less conservation research and funding. This is a shame, in my opinion, because these are fascinating species. And they need work. I’ll put in a disclaimer here: Many big cats are in trouble and deserve to be the focus of conservation efforts—the tiger, especially, is in bad shape. But this shouldn’t be done at the expense of the smaller cats. In some ways I feel like they’ve slipped through the conservation cracks. Read more…

Leopard cat

It is late December 2012. Instead of spending the Christmas break in my hometown I am thousands of miles away in the remote jungles of Vietnam. I have been invited here by WWF to help with biodiversity surveys in the Hue Saola Nature Reserve. As I climb with my guide through molasses-thick jungle vegetation, I think back to what I have given up to undertake this experience: warmth, family, friends have been traded for punishing field conditions. But I was also in a naturalist’s paradise. And I knew that if you spend enough time in the jungle you can be rewarded with sights that, to a true biologist, are priceless. Then it happened: two tawny blurs streaked across the riverbed and up the side of a low hill. Read more…

Annamite dark muntjac

By the mid-1990s two large ungulate species had been discovered by science in the Annamite Mountains. The discovery of both the Saola and the Large-antlered muntjac stood the biological world on its head. The last large mammal to be found in this part of the world was the Kouprey, a towering wild cattle species, which was discovered in in Eastern Cambodia in 1937. And now over fifty years later not one but two large mammals had been uncovered in Southeast Asia. Few people, I think, expected that a third endemic ungulate would turn up. But that is exactly what happened. Read more…