But ecologists from the Zoological Society of London and Imperial College London have been able to take the largest-ever collection of photos of the elusive animal using randomly placed camera traps in the forests of Borneo.
The cats were recorded on camera in heavily logged forests, giving hope to conservationists who assumed endangered animals can succeed in such conditions.
“We were completely surprised to see so many bay cats at these sites in Borneo where natural forests have been so heavily logged for the timber trade,” said Robert Ewers, of the SAFE tropical forest conservation project in Borneo. “Conservationists used to assume that very few wild animals can live in logged forest, but we now know this land can be home for many endangered species.”
The ecologists published their findings in PLoS ONE. They also found four other species of cats, including the the Sunda clouded leopard, leopard cat, flat-headed cat and marbled cat.
“We discovered that randomly placed cameras have a big influence on the species recorded,” said Dr. Oliver Wearn, the report's lead author.
“The cameras record multiple sightings, sometimes of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spending years in an area," Wearn added. "For example, I’ve seen the clouded leopard just twice in three years of fieldwork, whilst my cameras recorded 14 video sequences of this enigmatic cat in just eight months."