'Extinct' wild cat spotted in Borneo

2011-01-13 13:31
Kuala Lumpur - One of the world's rarest wild cats, an elusive creature once thought to be extinct, has been spotted in camera traps in Malaysian Borneo for the first time since 2003, researchers have said.

The Bornean Bay Cat, a long-tailed reddish or grey feline the size of a large domesticated cat, was sighted in the northern highlands of Malaysia's Sarawak state, the forest department said on Thursday.

Three photographs showing two or three individuals were captured, bringing new hope for the future of the endangered animal about which very little is known, said research officer Wilhelmina Cluny.

"This species is very secretive... it was classified as extinct until a photograph of it was taken in 2003," she said.

"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."

"We had been looking for any mammals and this bay cat came up, it's quite exciting that we got the photograph."

Rampant logging

Cluny said there has been very little research into the bay cat, and there is no indication as to whether its numbers are rising or falling.

The images were captured in 2009 and 2010, but not released until the study was completed. The animals spotted were the grey variety, which are even more rare than the reddish type.

The camera trap was positioned next to the Pulong Tai national park in northern Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states that make up part of Borneo. The vast island is shared with Indonesia and the small sultanate of Brunei.

The 2003 photographs were taken in the Lanjak Entimau wildlife sanctuary in southern Sarawak.

Other than these handful of images, most other information on the species consists of "historical records, morphological descriptions and anecdotes", according to the Sarawak Forest Department.

Rampant logging in timber-rich Sarawak has removed much of the state's forest cover, threatening the survival of animal and plant species as well as indigenous tribes whose way of life is increasingly in peril.
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