Bay cat, a little-known species endemic to the island of Borneo, this small (2 -3 kg) cat inhabits dense primary forests and areas of rocky limestone; most sightings and collections have occurred in the highlands. Deforestation may threaten this rare species, although there is no direct evidence. Protected by law throughout its range, a survey of the status, distribution and ecology of the species is required.
Zoological Name: Catopuma badia
Species: It has always been questioned whether the bay cat is a unique species or merely a smaller island form of the Asian golden cat. With blood samples taken from the 1992 specimen, genetic testing has confirmed that they are indeed a unique species, and therefore a highly endangered one. No subspecies have been described.
Physical Appearance: The bay cat is about the size of a large domesticate cat with an extra long tail, it has two color phases The coat can be mahogany red or blackish gray on the back and flanks, but it is usually paler on the underparts, with some faint spots on the belly and limbs. A pale flash marks the inside of each eye and there may be faint dark stripes on the top of the head and the cheeks. The first half of the tail is conspicuously white underneath
Presence on the Planet: As its name suggests, the Bornean red cat is confined to the island of Borneo. Found in the dense tropical forests up to an altitude of 900 metres (one unconfirmed sighting at 1,800m), it has been observed in rocky limestone outcrops and recently in logged dipterocarp forest. The latest individual to be caught was on the Sarawak/Indonesian border but other records are widely distributed in the northern half of the island.
At least three specimens were found near rivers, but this is probably due to collector bias/convenience rather than evidence of habitat preference.
Habitat: Little is known of the habitat and ecology of C. badia. Meijaards (1997) review of sightings found the cat in several forest types, including hill forest up to 500 metres a.s.l., lowland Dipterocarp forest and also swamp forest.
Diet: Prey species of this felid include small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles, and it has been observed feeding on carrion. Monkies are also an important part of the diet. This species is very rare, partially due to the widespread deforestation taking place in this part of the world, and possibly endangered.
Reproduction & Offspring: The reproductive behaviour of bay cats is unknown.
Conservation Status: Borneo is suffering from appalling deforestation, thus the habitat of the Bornean bay cat is being rapidly destroyed. Insufficient information is available to be able to estimate the status of the populations of this species and how they are likely to react to human disturbance. Bay cats are on CITES: Appendix II and are listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable. There is estimated to be around only 50 individuals left. The main threat to bay cats is thought to be loss of habitat due to deforestation.
Life Span: Unknown.
Mystery of the cat family!
Bornean bay cats are the mystery cat of the family. No living cats have been seen by biologists, and nothing is known about their habits, behaviour, ecology or reproductive biology. Most of the biological information available on this species has been obtained from five skins and two skulls in natural history museums in Europe.
In 1992 an adult female bay cat was brought into the Sarawak Museum, alive but at the point of death, dying soon after. The cat had apparently been caught by native trappers and held in captivity for some months. The appearance of this specimen offered the first opportunity to look at a whole animal.