Extremely Rare Bay Cat Captured on Camera in Borneo

Using camera traps, British biologists have captured photographs of the world’s least known cat, the bay cat (Pardofelis badia).

The Bay Cat, Pardofelis badia. Image credit: Oliver Wearn.

The Bay Cat, Pardofelis badia. Image credit: Oliver Wearn.

The mysterious bay cat, also known as the Bornean cat, is a wild cat endemic to the Indonesian island of Borneo. Adults grow as long as 50-60 cm with a 30 – 40 cm long tail, and can weigh over 3.5 kg.

Until now, this species had been recorded on camera traps just a handful of times in Borneo and was only photographed in the wild for the first time in 2003.

But more images of this animal have been captured than ever before, together with evidence of four other wild cat species – the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) and marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata).

“We discovered that randomly placed cameras have a big influence on the species recorded,” explained Dr Oliver Wearn from both Zoological Society of London and Imperial College London, who is a lead author of the paper published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

Camera traps have transformed how information is collected for many species of mammals and birds, including some of the most charismatic species in existence, like tigers. Many of these species are exceedingly good at spotting, and avoiding, conservationists who spend time in the field seeking them. Camera traps, on the other hand, sit silently in the forest often working for months on end come rain or shine.

“The cameras record multiple sightings, sometimes of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spending years in an area. For example, I’ve seen the clouded leopard just twice in three years of fieldwork, whilst my cameras recorded 14 video sequences of this enigmatic cat in just eight months,” Dr Wearn said.

All five cat species mentioned are charismatic and important components of the forest ecosystems, and predators of a wide range of other animals.

They are also highly-threatened: four of the five species are listed as threatened with global extinction on the IUCN Red List.

Almost nothing is known about the habits of the mysterious bay cat, but it is thought to be at risk of extinction due to widespread loss of its habitat on Borneo.

“Our study today shows solid evidence that even large carnivores, such as these magnificent bay cats, can survive in commercially logged forests,” concluded senior author Dr Robert Ewers from Imperial College London.

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Bibliographic information: Wearn OR et al. 2013. Assessing the Status of Wild Felids in a Highly-Disturbed Commercial Forest Reserve in Borneo and the Implications for Camera Trap Survey Design. PLoS ONE 8 (11): e77598; doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077598