One of the the worlds least known species of cats are the Bornean bay cat (pardofelis badia, Gray, 1874). During the last decade, there have been more sightings than ever before. This will hopefully help us maintain a survivable population.

Please note: This article is not written by a professional and is only intended as an introduction to the Bornean bay cat.


The Bornean bay cat is normally up to 67 cm long and the tail adds up to 40 cm to the total length. The proportions of the body and the tail reminds of the proportions of a jaguarundi. The weight of an adult bay cat is estimated to 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb). The ears are rounded. There are two variants of fur colourings: chestnut red and a combination of grey and brownish red. The forehead have a marking that looks like an M.


In 1856, Alfred Russel Wallace collected a scull and a skin of a Bornean bay cat. The cat was believed to be a kitten of an Asian golden cat. In 1874, the scull and the skin was sent to John Edward Gray who first described the cat under the binomial name Felis badia. In 1932, Reginald Innes Pocock placed the species in the monotypic genus Badiofelis, before the species was replaced in the genus Catopuma in 1978. In 2006, the classification was changed again. Because of close relationship between the bay cat and the Asian golden cat and the marbled cat, all three species were grouped in the genus Pardofelis.

Studies from the mid-2000s shows that the bay cat is not a smaller island form of the Asiatic Golden Cat, as previously thought. An evaluation of skull morphology, done by Sicuro and Oliveira in 2011, confirms this. It was revealed that the skull structure in Pardofelis is different from Catopuma scull. On another note, Pardofelis has a flexible ankle joint and elongated tail, which are lacking in Catopuma.


There have been few sightings of the bay cat compared to other species of cats. This means that there is uncertain where the species preferred habit is, but we have a few indications. It is indicated that the bornean bay cat inhabit dense tropical forests, in rocky limestone outcrops and in logged forest. Almost all records are from close proximity to water bodies such as rivers and mangroves, suggesting the bay cat may be closely associated with such habitats.

Note: Some of my sources disagrees with each other when it comes to sightings. Therefore, the years are only meant as indications.

Since Gray received the skull and the skin in 1874, only seven skins surfaced in the following decades. Even if there were confirmed sightings of the bay cat (one in 1928), no living individual was caught until 1992. This specimen was a female captured by native trappers on the Sarawak-Indonesian border. After months in captivity, the cat was brought to Sarawak museum. At this point, the cat was on the point of death. Tissue and blood samples were acquired. 6 years later, the first photo of a living specimen was taken in 1998. Up to the mid 1990s, the most reliable sightings have been reported from the upper Kapuas River in West Kalimantan, and from the Gunung Palung National Park.

After the new century started, camera traps have become a more regularly used among scientists and researchers. Several specimens of the bay cat have been caught on camera due to this. But the number of sightings started slow; only one photo of a bay cat was taken between 2003 and 2006. But from this period, there is an unconfirmed record of a bay cat from Sarawak. The record mention a bay cat observed on a branch 1 m (3.3 ft) from the ground and close to the river at night time.

Dr. Jim Sanderson

In 2002, a bay cat was photographed in Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak and another one was photographed in Lanjak Entimau wildlife sanctuary in southern Sarawak in 2003. The later one was caught by a camera sat out by Mohd-Azlans team. A local animal collector near Lachau, Sarawak, claimed he accidentally trapped two bay cats on separate occasions in December 2003. One cat died in captivity, and the other was released. From 2003 to 2005, 15 bay cats were recorded in Kalimantan, Sabah, and Sarawak. These records consist of single opportunistic observations.

Andrew Hearn and collaborator Joanna Ross of the Global Canopy Programme were the first to film the species with a video camera trap in 2007. They also took the first photos of the animal in Sabah. This record was from north-western part of Sabah's Deramakot Forest Reserve of a male bay cat. This record expands the range of bay cats to the north.

The bay cat has been photographed in Pulong Tau National Park (Borneo’s Kelabit Highlands) by Panthera grantees Jedediah Brodie and Anthony Giordano. Their photograph is the first record of the bay cat in the Borneo highlands, at 1460 meters. Previous records are from dense lowland forest under 800 meters. The camera traps also revealed a stunning wealth of other wildlife, including species which are listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Panthera cooperates with Oxford University’s WildCRU on a project led by Andrew Hearn and David Macdonald which has photographed the bay cat on 28 occasions, perhaps the largest number of records in existence.

But, still, the cat remains so difficult to find that researchers know very little about how the secretive cat actually lives. It is said that the cat depends on forest. The deforestation of Borneo may wipe out the bay cat before scientists get a chance to find out more about it.

The use of camera traps has led to major wildlife discoveries in recent years. ZSL and Imperial College London PhD researcher Oliver Wearn said: "We discovered that randomly placed cameras have a big influence on the species recorded. The cameras record multiple sightings, sometimes of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spending years in an area. For example, I've seen the clouded leopard just twice in three years of fieldwork, while my cameras recorded 14 video sequences of this enigmatic cat in just eight months."


In 2007, the population of bay cats was estimated to be about 2,500 mature individuals. The Bornean bay cat is included on CITES Appendix II (as Catopuma badia). The species is fully protected by national legislation across most of its range. Hunting and trade are prohibited in Indonesia (Kalimantan) and Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak). The bay cat is also listed by the IUCN Red List as Endangered (Category and Criteria "Endangered C1 ver 3.1").

Small cats are important indicators of the health of an ecosystem, but they are often over-shadowed by their better-known relatives like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Four of five cat species on the island of Borneo face extinction. The biggest threat is habitat loss due to palm oil plantations.

Dr. Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of the world’s rarest cats. I would like to end this article with a quote from Sanderson:

“No other place has a higher percentage of threatened wild cats! Not one of these wild cats poses a direct threat to humans.”