Sometimes it’s crazy to think about the fact that we humans still don’t know about every species that exists on planet Earth. From deep in the rain forests to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, scientists are always discovering new things!
Some of these animals are very elusive, which is why it was exciting when researchers recently captured footage of the extremely rare bay cat. The bay cat is native only to the little Southeast Asian island of Borneo, which belongs to Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Researchers from the Oxford Brookes University, Muhammadiyah University Palangka Raya in Indonesia, and the University of Exeter in the UK captured the bay cat on camera while conducting a survey of wildlife in Indonesian Borneo.
The researchers set up 54 camera traps throughout 28 locations in Borneo. They finally caught the bay cat on camera after 28 days! The images captured were some of the most high-resolution photos ever taken of the animal -- previous photos were much grainier.
5. Why So Elusive?
The bay cat is difficult to study for of several reasons: it’s the size of a house cat, it’s nocturnal and generally very secretive, and it’s severely endangered. In fact, scientists don’t even know what the bay cat eats, or virtually anything about its reproductive nature!
Previously it was thought that the bay cat was just an island cousin of the Asiatic Golden Cat (pictured), but genetic testing eventually revealed that it is indeed its own species, and a very endangered one at that.
The bay cat is widely spread out across the lowland and upland forests of Borneo. Researchers believe that the cat may be able to live in swamp forests, and unsurprisingly, they can’t live in areas that have been forested or in oil palm plantations.
The main threat to the bay cat’s survival is loss of its habitat through logging and hunting, as just two examples.
“There is still a lot we don’t know about the forests of Borneo and the clock is ticking,” say the team of researchers who recently filmed the bay cat. “More surveys are needed to understand the distribution and ecological needs of Borneo’s wildlife if we are to save species on the brink of extinction.”
Because of how rare the bay cat is, traders are aware of how valuable its fur is, and sometimes the cats are even captured as pets. Although there is technically legal protection of the bay cat within Borneo, it is rarely ever enforced.
Fortunately there has been action taken to help save the bay cat. An Indonesian timber company has partnered with the Nature Conservancy in implementing sustainable development, which includes monitoring the impact of tree-removal.
Without basic knowledge of the bay cat, scientists will have a difficult time knowing exactly what type of habitat it needs to survive long-term. This recent breakthrough in capturing the cat on film will hopefully help to bring more insight to researchers as they strive to learn more about the elusive creature.
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