Rare cat released back into jungle

National 2 minutes, 15 seconds

BRUNEI-MUARA

A RARE flat-headed cat was released back into the jungle yesterday after it was rescued off a farm in Ulu Tutong.

The elusive wild animal, which has been listed as endangered since 2008 due to pollution and the destruction of wetlands in their habitat, was spotted on the farm last Sunday by a family who approached 1StopBrunei Wildlife to arrange for its release.

“Our aim was to release it as soon as possible, because this flat-headed cat is one of the most endangered cat species in Southeast Asia,” said a member of the environmental club.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he claimed only four previous sightings of the flat-headed cat have been reported in Brunei including one found dead by the roadside.

The latest encounter over the weekend was believed to be the sultanate’s fifth known sighting to date.

“There are many instances where these wild cats are either killed or kept as pets, which is wrong on every level. So we’re very happy to release it into the jungle,” he said.

According to experts, it is difficult to determine the flat-headed cat’s population size given its patchy distribution and lack of density estimates, but the animal was once declared extinct in Malaysia until a small number were discovered in 1985.

While it is not illegal to kill or capture the flat-headed cat in Brunei, 1StopBrunei Wildlife hoped the rare species of cat will soon receive much-needed legal protection.

“It’s not listed as one of the animals under the Wildlife Protection Act, which is currently under review.

“We look forward to seeing what’s in the appendix of the new act and we hope the flat-headed cat will be included,” said the member.

He explained the club has released 74 wild animals over the past two years including a number of clouded leopards, pangolins and slow lorises, but the flat-headed cat was a first for Brunei Darussalam.

“I think awareness (about conservation) is growing, but it’s still far more common – certainly in the rural areas – to kill these magnificent creatures and possibly keep them caged, rather than arrange for recovery and release,” he said.

The member urged the public to contact 1StopBrunei Wildlife via their Facebook page to request for assistance in the release of wild animals.

“If, for whatever reason, you have a jungle animal then please contact us... The more we can rescue and release, the better. They need to be free in the wild,” he said, adding that wild animals in the sultanate face threat of habitat loss and poaching.

The club released the flat-headed cat at an undisclosed area deep in the sultanate’s jungle after seeking advice from various experts.

The Brunei Times