Bay cat is the world’s least known species of cat

It’s remarkable to realise that we still know very little about the bay cat which is only found in Borneo and where the forests – this small wild cat’s habitat – have been and continue to be cut down. It is also referred to as the Borneo bay cat.

Picture of a Borneo Bay cat. Image credit: A.J. Hearn/J. Ross/Wild CRU.
Picture of a Borneo Bay cat. Image credit: A.J. Hearn/J. Ross/Wild CRU.

In 1883, Daniel Giraud Elliot wrote that nothing was known of the bay cat in the wild and yet today it can be said with some certainty that little is known of the bay cat in the wild.

And James Sanderson with Patrick Watson say that this is not because of a lack of trying. Experts have looked for the cat and failed. They argue that the authorities “insist the bay cat is the rarest on earth”.

But we don’t know enough about it to say whether it is the rarest or not the rarest in the world. But it is certainly very rare.

Alfred Russel Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, collected the first bay cat in 1858 but the specimen was in bad condition. It was collected in Kuching, Sarawak and sent to London for examination. They decided another specimen was needed but Wallace never found a second bay cat.

However, in 1864 based upon this single poor specimen which included a partial skull, it was announced that a new small cat species had been discovered.

Deforestation in Borneo.
Borneo deforestation is devastating for the wildlife supported by the forests of this enormous island.

RELATED: Borneo bay cat description infographic

There are other small wild cat species which are little known. In all, it’s fair to say that the small wild cats are far less well-known than the big cats.

Outside of Asia where most of the small wild cats are, the general public don’t really know about these cat species. In Asia the lack conservation of them is acute. They are gradually fading away and becoming extinct because of the usual pressures from human behaviour and human population growth.

Other poorly understood small wild cat species are the flat-headed cat and the marbled cat. Sanderson and Watson (Small Wild Cats) say that they have “not received the attention they deserve.”

In Africa, the African golden cat also falls into the same category. It lives in the forest belt that extends across central Africa which is also being cut down.

We know more about the fishing cat but not enough. Sanderson and Watson say that “the last individual fishing cat to be seen was shot by a hunter in 1932”. They then query whether the fishing cat has gone extinct in Java. They admit that we don’t know.

We don’t know much about the sand cat either. It lives in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. It’s believed that it has disappeared from many areas “within this geographic range, but hard evidence is lacking, and no one has made the sand cat a top priority.”

They believe that there should be a long-term monitoring programme for the Andean cat which is the only member of the Felidae in the Americas considered endangered. In addition, they say that “several populations of the more widespread Pampas cat seemed to have disappeared, but critical information is missing”

You will get the distinct impression that we don’t know enough about the small wild cat species. They have not been well studied and the conservation status of many of them is little known.

If you visit the IUCN Red List website where you will find expert opinion on the conservation status of all flora and fauna, you will see some big gaps in knowledge about these small wild cat species and the most up-to-date information is often from 2014, 10 years ago. We just simply do not have a handle on the conservation of these endangered cats. Reason? A lack of interest and concern.

RELATED: Borneo Bay Cat Range

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World cheetah population is about 6% of what it was in 1900

Anyone who writes about cats has an obligation to remind readers that the world population of the cheetah has declined catastrophically since the 1900s when there were an estimated 100,000 on the planet while today there are an estimated 6500. The population is severely fragmented and it is decreasing year-on-year. Nothing has changed.

A scientific study published in 2016 concluded that there were “dramatic declines of cheetah across its distribution range.”

That study estimated the world population at about 7,000 individuals because it was around seven years ago so you can see the estimate has dropped since then which is unsurprising. And these will be estimates, which can be inflated. Counting wild cat species accurately is tricky.

Critically, the study scientists concluded that the cheetah was “confined to 9% of its historical distributional range. However, the majority of the current range (77%) occurs outside of protected areas where the species faces multiple threats.”

That is an astonishing statistic. What they’re saying, just to reiterate, is that more than three quarters of the cheetah population of the world is living outside of nature reserves where they are protected. They are living perhaps on farmland where they can be persecuted because they hunt livestock.

RELATED: Cheetahs become more nocturnal and less active in high temperatures which may have negative survival consequences

We have to be sensitive to Africa’s farmers because they have to make a living. It is all very well for Westerners to say that Africa should protect and conserve all iconic species, effectively making the African continent a nature reserve, while Africans have to live with them and these are big species that can harm them physically and financially. And that’s the problem. Although it should be noted that in the case of the cheetah, we are talking about a retiring large cat that attacks livestock but rarely people.

Within the reserves there appears to be a cheetah population growth because they are protected while outside the reserves in unprotected areas the population declines.

And research indicates that growth rates within protected areas have to be high if they are to compensate for declines outside.

Remarkably, the study says that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List had classified the cheetah as endangered in 2016 but my research now indicates that they are considered to be vulnerable which is one step up i.e. less endangered which I find absolutely astounding.

I have very little confidence in the people who run the Red List. To me, they consistently undervalue endangered species and tend to be reluctant to classify them as truly endangered. I always wonder whether they are lobbied incessantly by both African administrators and the hunting lobby in America and the UK. Both these parties want iconic species to be unprotected and therefore not endangered so they can sell licences to sport hunters at exorbitant prices.

The study concluded that there should be a holistic approach to conservation “that incentivises protection and promotes sustainable human-wildlife coexistence across large multiple-use landscapes.”

What they are saying is that there needs to be better processes in place which allows farmers to coexist with cheetahs. The classic way to achieve that is to compensate farmers for livestock loss through government funding as a kind of insurance policy to prevent farmers from retaliatory killings of cheetah.

Study: The global decline of cheetah Acinonyx jubatus and what it means for conservation. Link: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1611122114

RELATED: When Namibian farmers avoided cheetah ‘hubs’ they reduced livestock losses by 86%

Some tags:

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Sand cat has a home range of up to 1,758 square kilometers

A study has come to the astonishing conclusion that the diminutive sand cat, about the size of a small domestic cat at 7.5 pounds, has an enormous home range in Morocco. Or, perhaps, it doesn’t have a home range at all and is nomadic. Either way the revelation is extraordinary.

In Morocco female sand cats have an average home rage between around 291.9 ± 417 km2 and male sand cats have a home range of 304.5 ± 375.7 km2.

Sand Cat
Sand Cat. Image: MikeB. The photos are paid for by Canva and I subscribe to Canva.

“In total, we have radio-tracked 22 individuals and our study demonstrates that sand cats are using much larger than previously reported home-ranges: The male M29 tracked over a year, covered 232.4 km2…” – Alexander Silwa and colleagues.

The interesting conclusion is that although these home ranges are enormous at around 300 km², they could be a lot bigger or a lot smaller so there’s a huge degree of flexibility in the home range of the sand cat. And in one case, an individual sand cat roamed around an area of up to 1,758 km² which is about 1093 mi² over a period of 6.5 months. Astonishingly, this is a home range which is bigger than that of tigers!

It’s been suggested that this species of small wild cat is nomadic rather than being attached to a territory which they call their home.

The researchers found the revelations “truly eye-opening”.

The sand cat is the only true desert cat and the study took place in the Moroccan Sahara Desert which looks like an ideal habitat for this cat which is highly adapted to living on sand.

The Moroccan Sahara, the home of the sand cat in this study
The Moroccan Sahara, the home of the sand cat in this study.

The finding may alter the way this cat is classified in terms of their survivability. The people involved with that classification are those at the IUCN Red List. Currently they classify species as Least Concern which is a pretty slack categorisation meaning that the cat is not threatened. It means what it states that the experts are not concerned about this cat becoming extinct and that was an upgrade from Near Threatened.

Knowing their home ranges are so huge the categorisation may have to be tightened up because the research indicates that their density i.e. the number of cats over a certain area is low. Perhaps lower than the experts had ever envisaged. And this would impact the assessment of population numbers. There may be fewer sand cats than they thought.

Below are some more articles on the sand cat which may interest you. This is an adorable looking cat with very large ear flaps indicating that they rely upon sound, which they do, very strongly in order to detect prey while keeping out of sight as the desert landscape is very barren.

Link to the study: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2022.104909 which is called: Home ranges of African sand cats (Felis margarita margarita).

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Pallas’s cat is NOT endangered generally the experts say

People ask ‘Why are Pallas’s cats endangered?’ but they aren’t according to the people who are meant to know. It is a slightly surprising conclusion by the IUCN Red List people who’ve listed the Pallas’s cat as Least Concern. This is one step better than Near Threatened (see categories below). In other words, they believe that this small, attractive wild cat species is not threatened with extinction currently in 2023.

IUCN Red List Categories
IUCN Red List Categories

Pallas's Cat
Pallas’s Cat. Photo by Tambako The Jaguar

Their assessment is dated 6 November 2019 which is a little old. The species is possibly extinct in Armenia and Azerbaijan and possibly present (extant) in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The listing of Least Concern is probably due to the fact that this species has a wide distribution. This helps to maintain its status despite a number of threats, the usual ones concerned with human activity such as residential and commercial development, agriculture and aquaculture, mining and energy production, transportation and the building of roads, hunting and trapping for their fur and so on.

Specifically, the experts say that they are difficult to protect in reserves because they have large home ranges. They are dependent upon shelters made by other threatened species such as Siberian marmots.

Their distribution is fragmented. They use marmot burrows to seek refuge from predators. Because the marmot population is declining due to its overharvesting by humans and is now classified as endangered, the argument is that there are less marmot burrows for Pallas’s cats to hide in.

Habitat degradation is the most serious threat which is due to increased livestock in the areas where they live. This includes conversion of grasslands into arable land and infrastructure development combined with resource extraction including mineral exploitation and infrastructure developments. These all combine to degrade the quiet enjoyment of the habitat of this small cat species.

In Mongolia, livestock numbers have increased from 26 million in 1991 to 66 million in 2018 according to the National Statistical Office of Mongolia.

Livestock damages their habitat and displaces the Pallas’s cat.

There is also predation by feral and herding dogs. Sometimes there is accidental capture through trapping or snaring. There is also illegal hunting of the species.

Climate change has had a negative impact on Pallas’s cat. It is having a detrimental impact on the grasslands and mountain ecosystems of central Asia and the Himalayas.

The experts expect a cascade of changes to the ecosystems in these areas. Pallas’s cat breeding is dictated by the length of the day and there are fears that the cat may be unable to respond to seasonal changes due to climate change.

Pallas’s cats build up fat during the season when prey is abundant and burn their fat when prey availability is low. Climate change is predicted to alter seasonal patterns and prey availability which may affect their ability to control energy reserves as described.

There is poisoning of small mammals such as pikas to try and reduce disease transmission from these animals to humans and livestock. Pikas are a prey animal of the Pallas’s cat.

In China pika numbers have been reduced by 95% and $35.5 million was spent between 2006 and 2013 to eradicate the plateau pika in Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve.

There will also be secondary poison if such large numbers of small prey animals are poisoned by the authorities. There seems to be a disregard for Pallas’s cat in this respect. How are the authorities prioritising animal species? Is this speciesism?

Note: Pallas’s cat is sometimes referred to as ‘Pallas cat’ and the proper name is ‘manul’.

Below are a couple more pages on Pallas’s cat but there are many more on this website so please search for them if it interests you.

Pallas’s cat lives at the highest point above sea level of all the cat species

The adorable and cute Pallas’s cat is quite friendly

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How many bobcats are there in North America?

The short answer is that we are unsure. You will see some very variable answers from about one million in North America (National Geographic) to between 2.3 million and 3.5 million in the world but the source of the second set of numbers is said to be the top source of information of this sort, the IUCN Red List, but today, 2022, they don’t have a number at all on their website (see image below).

Apparently, they don’t know how many adult, individual bobcats there are in the world. Their assessment is dated 11 February 2016 in any case. They appear to have given up trying to produce a number 6 years ago. It is also somewhat shocking that all their information on the status of this medium-sized wild cat in terms of surviving as a species, is so old.

Conservation is often fairly fast moving as many species are threatened with extinction.

IUCN Red List don't know the total number of bobcats
IUCN Red List don’t know the total number of bobcats. Image: MikeB from screenshot of IUCN webpage and a bobcat pic in the public domain on the internet.

Perhaps they are just unsure. Or they aren’t counting. Perhaps they have a policy decision to stop estimating numbers. But the difference in the numbers above indicate to me that humankind doesn’t know. At least the National Geographic is honest in saying “North American populations are believed to be quite large”. Note the world ‘believed’. This is another word for ‘we don’t know’.

The honest truth is that the experts, the people charged with knowing answer, are unsure. The population seems to be relatively large compared to many other small or medium-sized wild cat species which are often around 2,000-5,000.

I suppose that the ‘stable’ population supports the demands of the hunting lobby who like to shoot them for entertainment. And the fur trade people who like to kill them for the skins on their backs.

If the numbers are decent both these businesses are allowed.

If you have a really good answer to the question in the title backed up with hard data, please share in a comment. It would interest me.

32 bobcats isolated for 30 years lost 15% of their genetic diversity

Can a bobcat kill large dogs like pit bulls or Rottweilers?

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How many jaguars are left in the world 2022?

There are two very sad facts to report in answering the question in the title. Firstly, there are websites and videos which greatly misrepresent the world population size of the jaguar. For example, there’s a video on YouTube which says that there are almost 200,000 Jaguars in 19 countries including America. The video is complete rubbish and it is dangerous because it gives the impression that there is a large jaguar population in the world and believe me there is not. I have reported it to the administrators. The jaguar population is tiny and fragmented.

Another website states that there are 15,000 jaguars in the world, in the wild. This, too, is inaccurate in my view because the world experts on the conservation of the species do not feel confident enough to provide a number at all. They say that the current population trend is decreasing but under the heading “NUMBER OF MATURE INDIVIDUALS” it is blank. There’s nothing.

How do Jaguars adapt to the rainforest?
How do jaguars adapt to the rainforest? Eons of evolution. Photo in public domain.

RELATED: How do jaguars adapt to the rainforest?

I’m referring to the IUCN Red List. This is an organisation charged with knowing all about the conservation of the species. They have to know the number of animals left in the world before they can assess whether a species is threatened with extinction or not. That is their primary duty. They provide a badge to each animal which classifies it in terms of threats to survival. They classify the jaguar as Near Threatened. This surprises me because they don’t know how many there are!

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) state on their website that: “They’re so elusive that we don’t know exactly how many are left in the wild – but we do know their numbers are dropping.”

They, too, do not have the confidence to even provide an estimate as to the number in the wild.

Most sites that I visited do not provide an estimate as to numbers. One site: Our Endangered World, states that the estimated numbers left in the wild are 8000 to 16,000 ‘though uncertain’. I think that is a big overestimate. They are guessing and they do not provide any supporting evidence or reference for those figures.

I am convinced that no matter how long I research this matter I will not find an authoritative and reliable figure for the number of jaguars left in the world, in the wild, as at 2022 because HUMANKIND DOES NOT KNOW.

jaguars in water
Jaguars like water and go fishing. Photo: Alan.

RELATED: Where do jaguars live (2022)?

The best book on the wild cat species, Wild Cats of the World (2002) by the Sunquists states that as at the date of publication of the book, optimistically, there were 2,500-3,500 jaguars in Venezuela. They thought that there were an estimated 3,500 jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal but this was downgraded to around 1,000 by another expert. In Guatemala they thought that there were an estimated 500-800. The jaguar was and presumably still is considered to be extinct in Chile, El Salvador and Uruguay and approaching extinction in Argentina, Costa Rica and Panama. Those are the best figures we have but they are 20 years old. Please be very cynical about the figures that you see on the Internet because the experts do not know.

Below are some more articles about this beautiful big cat.

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