Monday 15 August 2011

Borneo Bay Cat Early Years

The Bay Cat is the "world's least known felid". This mysterious wild cat is found solely on the island of Borneo. This wildcat is known from "about twelve specimens". You can see how rare and elusive this cat is. The quotes are from Wild Cats Of The World.

Apparently there is a Bay Cat in the British museum. It was put there in 1856 and it was collected by Alfred Russel Wallace.  This stuffed Bay cat is listed as coming from Sarawack - that was the sum of the information available at that time. Sarawak is part of the island of Borneo. Wallace was "based in the town of Sarawak now known as Kuching". After moving about 55 kilometres east of Kuching he found the Bay cat. There was virgin forest there. He stayed there for 9 months.

The current (at the time of this post) range or distribution of the Bay Cat is shown on the map below:

Map Channels: free mapping tools

The specimen of Bay Cat that Wallace had imported from Borneo was in poor condition and was not recognisable as a new species of wildcat. The curator listed it as a Flat-headed cat (Felis planiceps), a species already recognized.

A person, J.E. Gray, classified the specimen as a new species some 20 years later in 1874. In 1888 a second specimen turned up. It had been collected by Alfred H.L. Everett. He was a naturalist who lived in Borneo.  This second specimen was recorded as coming from the Suai river.

View Larger Map

Another specimen (dead of course) was collected by Charles Hose, a friend of Everett. This specimen was collected in 1894. It was collected from the Entoyut River, south of Claudetown (Marudi) and west of Mt. Mulu. This is also in the British Museum.

We have to wait until 1992 for the first live specimen! This bay cat was caught (trapped) on the Sarawack/Indonesian border. It was a live specimen, yes, but barely. It was emaciated and almost dead - surprised? It was first thought to be "an island race" of the Asiatic Golden Cat.

After analysis ("molecular techniques") it was decided that the bay cat was closely related to the Asiatic golden cat but that they had been separated some 4.9 to 5.3 million years before the "geological separation of Borneo from mainland Asia". The cat was a new species it was decided.

The quotes are from the book adveristed by Amazon (page 49) on this page.

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