One of the world’s least-known and most endangered wild cats, the Bay Cat, was recently photographed for the first time in high resolution by wildlife photographer Sebastian Kennerknecht, while working on assignment with Panthera. As highlighted in a recent LiveScience article and photo gallery, this stunning photograph, shown here, was taken with a camera trap set in Tawau Hills Park, in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Except for poor quality, remote camera-trap images taken by researchers, the Bay Cat has never been photographed like this in the wild.
Sebastian worked with a team led by PhD student Andrew Hearn from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, co-supervised by the head of WildCru David Macdonald and Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter. The team attempted to take high resolution photos of the Bay Cat on two separate trips, totaling three months. Sebastian explained, “To do so we employed five customized digital SLR camera traps that are triggered when an animal crosses an infrared beam. To increase our chances of getting a photograph, instead of placing the cameras in visually perfect spots, we instead set them up where Andrew had taken images of the Bay Cat before using his research trail cameras. During the first trip we were able to get pictures of a Marbled Cat, and Sunda Clouded Leopards, but the Bay Cat proved elusive. Only on the second trip did we get this single picture of a grey phased male Bay Cat.”
A virtually unknown species, the Bay Cat was photographed alive for the first time only in 1998, and only occurs on the island of Borneo (which comprises three countries, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia). Around the size of a large domestic cat, the bay cat has two distinct color phases, rich, rusty-red and grey with red undertones. Until recently, the species has never been the focus of intensive scientific research.
PhD student Andrew Hearn and collaborator Joanna Ross took the first video of a wild Bay Cat in 2007, serving as the only footage that exists of the species in Borneo. Today, Hearn is working with the Sabah Wildlife Department to unravel the mysteries of the Bay Cat and the other little-known felids of Borneo.
Sebastian concluded, “As excited as I was to capture a photograph of the elusive Bay Cat, nothing would make me happier than to see the image contribute to the conservation of this species.”
For more information on Panthera’s grant programs supporting projects on little known cats like the Bay Cat, see Panthera’s Small Cat Action Fund.