AboutZoos, Since 2008


Elu­sive bay cat caught on cam­era in Borneo

pub­lished 05 Novem­ber 2013 | mod­i­fied 03 Novem­ber 2014

First time five species of wild cat spot­ted in a Bor­neo forest.

The world’s least known cat has been caught on cam­era in a pre­vi­ously unsur­veyed rain­for­est by sci­en­tists from the Zoo­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Lon­don (ZSL) and Impe­r­ial Col­lege London.

Bay cat safeprojectUntil now, the bay cat (Pard­ofe­lis badia) had been recorded on cam­era traps just a hand­ful of times in its Bor­neo for­est home and was only pho­tographed in the wild for the first time in 2003. But more images of this ani­mal have been cap­tured than ever before, together with evi­dence of four other wild cat species, in a heav­ily logged area of for­est where they were not expected to thrive.

This is only one of four for­est areas in all of Bor­neo — the third largest island in the world — which has so far been reported to have all five species, includ­ing the Sunda clouded leop­ard (Neo­fe­lis diardi), leop­ard cat (Pri­on­ail­u­rus ben­galen­sis), flat-​headed cat (Pri­on­ail­u­rus plan­i­ceps) and mar­bled cat (Pard­ofe­lis mar­morata).

Our study today shows solid evi­dence that even large car­ni­vores, such as these mag­nif­i­cent bay cats, can sur­vive in com­mer­cially logged forests
Dr Robert Ewers, Depart­ment of Life Sci­ences, Impe­r­ial Col­lege London »

ZSL and Impe­r­ial Col­lege Lon­don PhD researcher Oliver Wearn says: “We dis­cov­ered that ran­domly placed cam­eras have a big influ­ence on the species recorded. This is some­thing I was taught in school — I remem­ber doing a project on which plant species were most abun­dant on our play­ing field, and being taught to fling quadrats over my shoul­der in a ran­dom direc­tion before see­ing what plants lay within it, rather than plac­ing it some­where that looked like a good place to put it — the same prin­ci­ple applies here.”

Cam­era traps have trans­formed how infor­ma­tion is col­lected for many species of mam­mals and birds, includ­ing some of the most charis­matic species in exis­tence, like tigers. Many of these species are exceed­ingly good at spot­ting, and avoid­ing, con­ser­va­tion­ists who spend time in the field seek­ing them. Cam­era traps, on the other hand, sit silently in the for­est often work­ing for months on end come rain or shine.

Oliver Wearn added: “The cam­eras record mul­ti­ple sight­ings, some­times of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spend­ing years in an area. For exam­ple, I’ve seen the clouded leop­ard just twice in three years of field­work, whilst my cam­eras recorded 14 video sequences of this enig­matic cat in just eight months.”

All five cat species men­tioned are charis­matic and impor­tant com­po­nents of the for­est ecosys­tems, and preda­tors of a wide range of other ani­mals. They are also highly-​threatened: four of the five species are listed as threat­ened with global extinc­tion on the IUCN Red List. Almost noth­ing is known about the habits of the mys­te­ri­ous bay cat, but it is thought to be at risk of extinc­tion due to wide­spread loss of its habi­tat on Borneo.

Dr Robert Ewers from the Depart­ment of Life Sci­ences at Impe­r­ial Col­lege Lon­don, leads the SAFE trop­i­cal for­est con­ser­va­tion project in Bor­neo, where the bay cats were seen. He says: “We were com­pletely sur­prised to see so many bay cats at these sites in Bor­neo where nat­ural forests have been so heav­ily logged for the tim­ber trade. Con­ser­va­tion­ists used to assume that very few wild ani­mals can live in logged for­est, but we now know this land can be home for many endan­gered species.”

“Our study today shows solid evi­dence that even large car­ni­vores, such as these mag­nif­i­cent bay cats, can sur­vive in com­mer­cially logged forests,” Dr Ewers added. The find­ings have been pub­lished on 4 Novem­ber in the jour­nal PLOS ONE.

ZSL and Impe­r­ial Col­lege Lon­don con­ser­va­tion­ists will con­tinue to study the effects of log­ging on wildlife pop­u­la­tions, look­ing more broadly than just the highly charis­matic cats, towards other mam­mal species, both large and small. More detailed work aims to gather the infor­ma­tion palm oil pro­duc­ers need to make their plan­ta­tions more mammal-​friendly, and assess whether sav­ing patches of for­est within such areas might be a viable option for sav­ing Borneo’s mammals.

(Source: ZSL and Impe­r­ial Col­lege Lon­don press release, 05.11.2013)

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