December 6, 2005
Strange, New Carnivore Species Sighted on Borneo
GENEVA -- Environmental researchers are preparing to capture what they call a new, mysterious species of carnivore on Borneo, the first such discovery on the wildlife-rich Indonesian island in over a century.
Swiss-based environmental group WWF said on Monday its researchers photographed the strange animal, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox, in the dense, central mountainous rainforests of Borneo.
The mammal, slightly larger than a cat with red fur and a long tail, was photographed twice by a camera trap at night.
Locals and wildlife experts who viewed photographs of the animal, which has very small ears and large hind legs, said they had never seen such a creature before and were convinced that it was a new species, WWF said.
Researchers hope to confirm the discovery by setting cage traps to catch a live specimen, but warn that Indonesian government plans to clear the rainforest to create the world's largest palm oil plantation may interfere with plans, WWF said.
The proposed plantation scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares, equivalent to about half the size of The Netherlands, said the WWF, formerly known as the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The potential new species of carnivore in Borneo would be the first since the discovery of the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895, the WWF said.
Pictures of the animal were first taken by WWF researchers in 2003, the photos kept unpublished by the WWF as research continued. The WWF decided to make public the photos with the release of a book about Borneo, to be published on Tuesday.