Bay Cat, Pardofelis badia

The bay cat (Pardofelis badia) is a species that is native to Borneo. Its other common names include the Bornean marbled cat, the Bornean cat, and the Bornean bay cat. Although the bay cat is extensively distributed across many habitats on the island, it is rarely seen. Some of its preferred habitats include tropical and lowland forests, and possibly rocky areas with limestone near the coast of the island. It can be found at elevations between 1,600 and 5,900 feet, although these estimates were gathered in separate years and areas. Despite this varying habitat, this species is known to depend on thick vegetation and forests to survive. Historical and recent records show that the bay cat prefers to live near water.

The bay cat was formally described by John Edward Gray in 1874. Grey gave this cat the scientific name of Felis badia, which was based on a skin and skull from Sarawak. It was thought that the specimen studied was an Asian golden cat kitten. Further changes occurred to its scientific name when it was classified under the genus Badiofelis in 1932 and under the Catopuma genus in 1978. A female bay cat was brought to Sarawak Museum in 1992, and genetic samples studied showed a close relationship between the bay cat and Asian golden cat, which is closely related to the marbled cat. Because of this, all three species were placed under the Pardofelis genus in 2006.

The bay cat is small, reaching an average body length between 19.5 and 26 inches, with a tail length between 12 and 15.9 inches. It is estimated to weigh between 6.6 and 8.8 pounds, but more live specimens need to be studied to record the exact weight. The fur is bright reddish brown in color on the upper body and pale on the under belly. The long tail is reddish in color on top, but white underneath, tapering out to a black tip. The ears are slightly darker in color than the rest of the body. Its face bares two stripes extending from the corners of the eyes, two lighter stripes on the cheeks, and an M shaped marking on the back of the head.

It is thought that the bay cat is solitary and nocturnal, due to the low number of sightings associated with the species. Because of this, there is no recorded information about the reproductive habits or diet of this species. It is so rare that a study conducted between the years of 2003 and 2006, using 5,034 camera traps, produced only one picture of the bay cat.

The bay cat is threatened by habitat loss caused by deforestation in Borneo, the area that holds the world’s highest rate of deforestation. Illegal trading of this species is also a threat, with some zoos and breeding institutions paying up to ten thousand U.S. dollars for one live bay cat. There are three wildlife reserves in Borneo, and twenty-two proposed reserves. Logging and other forms of deforestation have affected most of the planned areas for these reserves. Unfortunately, there are no captive individuals in Borneo to bolster wild populations. Conservation efforts include protecting it from hunting and trade in Sabah, Sarawak, and Kalimantan. The bay cat appears in the CITES Appendix II as Catopuma badia, and is listed in the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered.”

Image Caption: A captive bay cat in Sarawak, 2005. Credit: Jim Sanderson/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)