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Already a succesful trip: Marbled cat!

Already a succesful trip: Marbled cat!

When I’m going on a trip I always try to estimate somewhat realistically what is possible. Of course there is also some room for a bit of wishful thinking. The big target for me in Borneo was to get as much new cat species as possible, but I knew that that could be very difficult. There is only one cat easy on Borneo and that’s Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis). After that it gets hard! There are five species of cat that live on Borneo. The already mentioned Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis), Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) Flat-headed Cat (Prionailurus planiceps) the big one Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) and the most rare Bay Cat (pardofelis badia). In regard to that last one I knew it would be pretty much impossible to see, but also every single one of the other cats would be very diffcult to see. So i had decided for myself that my trip would be a success if I had seen a Sunda leopardcat (Prionailurus javanensis) plus one of the other cats.

My trip started in Danum Valley. This beautiful place is a good spot for many animals on Borneo, but I mainly went there for the birds. Especially Bornean Bristlehead (Pityriasis gymnocephala) was a big target and I got it!

Apart from that in the evening there was a possibility to go spotlighting. A tour of 1.5 was offered, but later it turned out that there was also a possibility to book a private jeep to go out for three hours. Because I had already figured out that there would be many nightly hours needed to stand a chance of seeing that second cat species I had arranged to spend 10 days in Deramakot where I would be able to go out for 7 hours every single night: the real deal! So I didn’t expect much from those extra couple of hours in Danum, but getting a first look at the Bornean nightlife should be fun.

I had four nights in Danum. The first two nights I went with the little tour of 1.5 hours, because only at the third night it had become clear that 3 hours was also a possibility. So that’s what we did for the third night! It started out well. We encounter multiple Malay civets (Viverra tangalunga) one of which acts especially tame. That’s how you want to see all your new species!

After about 1.5 hours’ drive suddenly a cat crosses the road. The guide is quick to call it a Marbled cat but it turns out to be a Sunda leopardcat. In any case my first cat on Borneo is in the bag! Sadly we don’t see it very well.

On the way back it’s pretty quiet. When we’re almost back at the Field Centre, I suddenly see yellow eye shine on a branch of a tree.

In de veronderstelling dat het wel om een civetkat zou gaan, bekijken we hem toch maar even door de verrekijker van een afstandje. Al snel wordt duidelijk dat het in elk geval geen civetkat is. Marmerkat of nevelpanter! Bij beter bekijken blijkt het een marmerkat te zijn: een van de lastigste katten van Azië! Deze kat wordt zelfs nog moeilijker geacht dan Borneose nevelpanter en we zijn daarom ook ontzettend blij dat we hem zien. De kat laat zich wel een kwartier lang uitgebreid bekijken.

Assuming it would be a civet, we have a better look anyway through the binoculars. Quickly it turns out that this is not a civet. Marbled cat or clouded leopard! When we have a closer look it turns out to be a Marbled cat: one of the most difficult cats of Asia! This cat is supposed to be even more difficult than Bornean clouded leopard and we are overjoyed that we see it. Of course it’s also a very beautiful cat with that long thing tail and beautifully patterned fur. The cat shows itself very well for about 15 minutes.

Finally the cat decides it wants to move on and descends ‘head first’ from the tree!

Very cool to see also this behaviour because this way of descending is so typical for this species. Together with clouded leopards and the South-American Margay (Leoapardus wiedii) is this species capable of twisting it’s ankles so that it can descend head first.

An awesome observation and also one that immediately gives a great feeling for the rest of the trip. I’m at my third day of three weeks and already the trip is a success!

Curious if Bornean clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi) was also a success? Have a look here!

 

LennartVerheuvel

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