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Friday, November 6, 2009

World's first video of the elusive and endangered bay cat

Rare, elusive, and endangered by habitat loss, the bay cat is one of the world's least studied wild cats. Several specimens of the cat were collected in the 19th and 20th Century, but a living cat wasn't even photographed until 1998. Now, researchers in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, have managed to capture the first film of the bay cat (Catopuma temminckii). Lasting seven seconds, the video (see below) shows the distinctly reddish-brown cat in its habitat.

For three years Andrew Hearn and Jo Ross of the Global Canopy Programme have been surveying Borneo's wild cats with camera trapping; these include the Sunda clouded leopard, the marbled cat, the flat-headed cat, the leopard cat, and the bay cat, which is the only species of the five that is wholly endemic to Borneo. As well as recording the first video of the bay cat, they also took the first photos of the animal in Sabah.

Due to habitat loss and deforestation—largely from the spread of palm oil plantations and logging—the bay cat is currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List and its population is in decline. If deforestation rates continue as expected, researchers have estimated that the already small population of bay cats will fall another 20 percent over the next decade.

The bay cat is not alone in its plight. Four of Borneo's five wild cats are classified by the IUCN as threatened with extinction due to continued deforestation.

"No other place has a higher percentage of threatened wild cats!" Jim Sanderson, an expert on the world's small cats, says. Pointing out that 80 percent of Borneo's cats face extinction, Sanderson adds that "not one of these wild cats poses a direct threat to humans."

So little is known about the bay cat that even its diet remains largely a mystery.
yright the Global Canopy Programme:

Researchers suspect there are less than 2,500 mature bay cats left in the wild. The species is endemic to Borneo and rampant deforestation is the main threat. Copyright: Global Canopy Programme. Photo by: Jo Ross and Andrew Hearn

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