Tuesday, December 06, 2005

ENV: Unknown Carnivore

Unknown Borneo beast caught on camera
WWF says catlike carnivore may be endangered by rainforest development
Reuters, Updated: 11:23 a.m. ET Dec. 6, 2005

GENEVA - Environmental researchers are preparing to capture what they call a new, mysterious species of carnivore on Borneo, the first such discovery on the wildlife-rich Indonesian island in more than a century.

The Swiss-based environmental group WWF said on Monday that its researchers photographed the strange animal, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox, in the dense, central mountainous rainforests of Borneo.

“This could be the first time in more than a century that a new carnivore has been discovered on the island,” the WWF said in a statement.

The mammal, slightly larger than a cat with red fur and a long tail, was photographed twice by a camera trap at night.

Locals and wildlife experts who viewed photographs of the animal, which has very small ears and large hind legs, said they had never seen such a creature before and were convinced that it was a new species, WWF said.

Researchers hope to confirm the discovery by setting cage traps to catch a live specimen, but they warn that the Indonesian government may interfere with that plan by clearing the rainforest to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation. The proposed plantation scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares (4.4 million acres), equivalent to about half the size of the Netherlands, said the WWF, formerly known as the World Widelife Fund.

The potential new species of carnivore in Borneo would be the first since the discovery of the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895, the WWF said.

Pictures of the animal were first taken by WWF researchers in 2003, but the WWW refrained from publishing the photos as research continued. The WWF decided to make the photos public with Tuesday's publication of a book about Borneo.


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