Monthly Wild Cat News
A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Previously thought to be a small island form of the Asiatic Golden Cat Pardofelis temminckii, genetic testing has revealed the Bay Cat is a unique species, and therefore a highly endangered one.
About the size of a large house cat, Bay Cats have uniform, dark, chestnut red fur faintly speckled with black markings, and spots on the lighter golden brown underside and limbs. A second colour phase of dark, bluish slate-grey has also been recorded. The short, rounded head is dark greyish brown with two dark stripes originating from the corner of each eye, and the back of the head has a dark ‘M’ shaped marking. The backs of the short rounded ears are dark greyish. The underside of the chin is white and there are two faint brown stripes on the cheeks. Their long, tapering tail has a yellowish streak down its length on the underside, becoming pure white at the tip, which is marked with a small black spot. Body proportions and the extremely long tail give it the look of the New World Jaguarundi Herpailurus yaguarondi.
The Bay Cat is found only on the island of Borneo. It appears to be widely distributed on the island, but seems to be concentrated in the interior of the island. They have been reported from hill, lowland and swamp forest, as well as highland areas of rocky limestone situated on the edge of dense jungle, hill forests up to 500 metres. There are also a few reports of Bay Cats in regenerating logged forest.
In 1992, an adult female Bay Cat was brought into the Sarawak Museum, alive but at the point of death, dying soon after. The cat had apparently been caught by native trappers and held in captivity for some months. The appearance of this specimen offered the first opportunity to look at a whole animal.
In 1998, BBC Wildlife Magazine published the photo photograph of a live Borneo Bay Cat. This cat was weighed, measured, photographed, given a physical examination, dewormed and released back into the forest.
During their study of the five felids on Borneo, researchers from the Bornean Clouded Leopard Program obtained camera trap photos of the Bay Cat, which were obtained at midday, early morning and at night.
Outside of protected areas, habitat loss due to commercial logging and oil palm plantations is the main threat to the Bay Cat. A collaborative effort between an Indonesian timber company and the Nature Conservancy is providing sustainable development, which includes monitoring the impact of tree removal (5 trees per hectare) on wildlife.
Scientists from this project observed two Bay Cats at night on the roadside in an area that had been selectively logged ten years previously. Road edges contain dense small trees and high numbers of rodents, making them ideal hunting areas. With the growing number of scientists working on Borneo, the number of sightings of Bay Cats has increased but a detailed field study on the Bay Cat is urgently required.
Wildlife traders are aware of the cat’s rarity, and they have been captured illegally from the wild for the skin and pet markets. The Bay Cat is one of the few small cat species classed as Endangered (2008).
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