On the 5th of December last year, the discovery of a new creature was announced to the world's press. It is a mammal, presumably a carnivore and is the first such beast to be documented since the Borneo Ferret Badger in 1895.

It was found by WWF researchers, who used a set of automatically-triggered cameras known as a camera trap. Two photographs resulted, both taken during the same night-time encounter. They show a ginger-brown animal with a cat-like face and ears, a very long tail, strong hindquarters and smaller front legs. Although its colouration is fox-like, the body is a similar size to a housecat. The tail is longer than either animals' and thicker than a cat's. One image has the creature facing the camera, crouched on its haunches, its eyes glowing from the reflection of the camera-flash. The other shows it loping off over the leaf-mulch into the night. It appears to show that the tail has a whitish area at the very end.

The WWF team, lead by the magnificently-named Dr. Stephen Wulffraat1, set up their camera trap in the Kayan Mentarang National Park in the dense, mountainous eastern rainforests of Indonesian Borneo. They are now attempting to capture a live cat-fox to confirm its identity as a new species.

Borneo is known for its rich biodiversity. Its 287,000 square miles are home to 3000 species of tree, 15,000 flowering plants, 221 known mammals and 420 known birds. But more are being discovered all the time; over 350 new species have been named in the last ten years alone. Creatures unique to the island include the Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Borneo Summatran rhinoceros, the glass catfish, clouded leopard, and the bornean orang-utan.

Earlier in 2005, the Indonesian and Chinese governments announced a plan to establish commercial Oil Palm plantation in the home of the cat-fox. This development could be a threat to the biodiversity of the region, and will involve clearing some 1.8 million hectares of the forests where the cat-fox lives. This deforestation is on top of the demands of the plywood industry in Malaysian Borneo. The Borneo cat fox must therefore already be considered under threat.

Other fun portmanteau critters for furry exoticists are the various ferret badgers, and the Vietnamese otter civet.

Sources:

  • On the trail of the Borneo cat-fox, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,3605,1660684,00.html?gusrc=rss
  • WWF lets Borneo 'cat-fox' out of the bag, http://www.nzherald.co.nz/location/story.cfm?l_id=3&ObjectID=10358711
  • Cat-fox, http://www.answers.com/topic/cat-fox
  • 'New mammal' seen in Borneo woods, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4501152.stm (instead of providing a high-resolution image of the animal, this page features a scrolling low-res video of a high-res image.)
  • Wikipedia (yaaawn), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borneo
  • Borneo a 'hotbed' of new species, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4474257.stm

1 - One wonders if a Borneo Wolf-Rat will be discovered by Dr. Stephen Cattfoxx.

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