Bornean Bay Cat – Photograph copyright Jim Sanderson, Ph.D – Please respect copyright.
Below is a cleaned up and labelled version (this page has been upgraded on 4th July 2018):
The “bay cat” is the world’s least know cat (felid). It is only found on the island of Borneo and that island is being logged relentlessly which is unfortunate for the bay cat as it lives in dense forest. It is very rare and becoming rarer.
The first bay cat was collected in 1855 by Alfred Wallace. I think it is in the British Museum. By 1928 there were 8 skins from this cat but no live cats. In Nov 1992 the first love bay cat surfaced caught by trappers on the Sarawak-Indonesia border. The cat was female and near death because she had been held captive for months trying to find someone to handle it.
The bay cat is about the size of domestic cats and looks like a smaller Asiatic golden cat. The cat has 2 colour phases. The coat can be mahogany red or blackish gray with paler underparts and faint spots on the belly and limbs.
As can be seen this cat is medium sized and quite rangy making it probably a good jumper, which is to be expected living in the dense tropical forests of Borneo and found up to an altitude of about 900 metres.
The early years of its discovery are interesting. This is the world’s least known felid, it is said.
The IUCN Red List for Threatened Species™ says that this cat has never been studied and as a consequence there is no information on diet. Although it probably feeds on small animals such as rodents, frogs, birds and also carrion. This cat is not, it seems, crepuscular (main activity at dawn, dusk an night) as camera traps have photographed activity during the day and night. It has an appearance that is somewhat unusual.
As the virgin forests of Borneo are being extensively logged its habitat and prey is diminishing in size and numbers and as a consequence its existence in the wild is threatened. There are probably none in captivity.
The Borneo Bay Cat has several other names in the English language, all of which are acceptable to the IUCN:
- Borneo Bay Cat
- Bay Cat
- Bornean Bay Cat
- Bornean Marbled Cat
- Chat Bai (French)
- Gato Rojo De Borneo (Spanish)
All the above are listed on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species™ website. The other names for this cat (including names in other languages) not listed on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species™ website are:
- Kucing Kalimantan
- Kucing Merahor
That makes 9 different names. There is only one scientific name, however: Pardofelis badia. The Bornean Bay Cat is placed in the genus Pardofelis with the Asiatic Golden Cat (also called the Asian Golden Cat). At one time it was thought that this wild cat species was an island form of the Asiatic Golden Cat but it is now thought that both have a common ancestor making this cat a unique species. The Bay Cat and Asiatic Golden Cat diverged, it is thought, from the common ancestor some 4.9-5.3 million years ago well before the island of Borneo was created about 10,000-15,000 years ago.
This medium sized wild cat is, as you guessed, found in Borneo:
Borneo is the island in the middle of the map.
IUCN Red List™ Assessment
What is interesting here is that little is known about this cat, as mentioned. That means both a lack of commitment in terms of conservation and a lack of information to assess the survivability of this cat in the wild. However, IUCN Red List for Threatened Species™ (Red List) classifies this species as endangered.
The assessment is based on the rapid deforestation of the island of Borneo. I presume that they supply the European and American furniture market. Here is a series of maps showing the severe deforestation in Borneo since 1950 and projections for the future:
This map is from this webpage. Author credit is: Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal. The source of the information for the creation of the map is: Radday, M, WWF Germany. 2007. ‘Borneo Maps’. January 24, 2007, personal e-mail (January 24, 2007)
Based on the rate of deforestation, the Bornean Bay Cat population is predicted to fall by more than 20% over the next 12 years or 2 generations. I would expect the Red List to reclassify the Bornean Bay cat to the next level (Critically Endangered) in due course unless changes occur.
Threats to Survival and Conservation
As mentioned deforestation for timber and oil palm plantations are the major threats to survival. Another threat is the usual body parts trade. The more rare the cat becomes the more profitable trade in body parts become speeding up extinction in the wild. There appears to be some domestication of this cat too.
The Bornean Bay Cat is listed in CITES Appendix II. This means, “…species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.” So trade in body parts is closely controlled or that is the intention.
This cat is protected under national legislation with a prohibition on hunting and trade. There are also protected areas in Borneo:
- Sabah: Danum Valley Conservation Area
- Sarawak – Gunung Mulu National Park
- Kalimantan: Gunung Palung National Park, Bentuang Karimum National Park, Sungai Wain Protection Forest.
I don’t know how well protected protected the parks are or whether they will bow to commercial logging pressure etc.
- Red List
- Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist