Elusive Cat Once Thought Extinct is Alive and OK in Borneo

bornean bay cat photo

The gray bay cats captured in the recent photos are even more rare than the red variety, seen here. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Almost everything scientists know about the Bornean bay cat is based on just 12 samples, the first of which was a skin collected in 1855 in Sarawak, Malaysia. In the several decades following this original discovery, seven other skins appeared. It wasn't until 1992 that a living specimen was obtained. Then, after another was captured in 1998, the species disappeared.

It was widely thought to be extinct until a photograph was taken of a single cat in 2003. Now, the photographic record has expanded after three photographs, depicting two or three individuals, were captured by camera traps in 2010.SLIDESHOW: 9 Species That Returned From Extinction in 2010

Wilhelmina Cluny, the research officer overseeing the camera trap project, explained:

This species is very secretive...it was classified as extinct until a photograph of it was taken in 2003...I do feel encouraged, this photograph was taken in a logged forest...when we saw this it made us wonder whether this kind of habitat can sustain wildlife, even for rare and important species like the bay cat.

Borneo, the only place on Earth where the cat lives, has 25 planned nature reserves. Unfortunately, only three actually exist and most—both planned and established—are threatened by logging and human settlement.

The IUCN estimates that fewer that 2,500 bay cats survive in the wild—but so little data has been collected on the species that conservationists are not certain whether the population is rising or falling.

Read more about Borneo:
Logging, Palm Oil and Human Rights in Borneo: Malaysian Government Pushes Ahead By Ousting Indigenous Leaders
Orangutan Population in Borneo National Park Declines 90% in Last Five Years
Rare Otter Spotted for the First Time in 100 Years

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