After an odyssey to repeat the magical moment, setting dozens of camera traps through the Borneo jungle, the wildlife expert has finally got the images he wanted the world to see.
The short clip will feature in the final episode of the BBC’s critically-acclaimed Big Cats series as he reviews thousands of hours of film taken by the motion-sensor driven high resolution cameras.
Trawling through footage, the camera knack of filming shy and elusive big cats is there to behold.
Sequences show a clouded leopard, marbled cat as well as a leopard cat, creatures rarely seen by humans, and all nonchalantly sauntering through the field of view.
Then suddenly, Dr Hearn has his eureka moment.
A flash of rusty brown cruises across the screen of his laptop,
“This is the first ever video of the bay cat in the wild,” he tells the BBC camera crew.
“It’s not the finest video, it’s not the most exciting but, to us, that was just spectacular.
“We were absolutely blown away when this thing appeared on the camera traps in front of us.”
The footage remains one of only two separate sequences of wild bay cats to date, illustrating how rare these endangered hunters remain since they were first discovered in 1856.
It was the celebrated Victorian explorer Alfred Russel Wallace who sent the first skin and skull specimens to the Natural History Museum but it was not until 1992 that a living one was captured on Borneo’s Sarawak border and identified.
Dr Hearn had his first encounter 12 years ago while surveying a remote Bornean region, only for one animal to saunter by as he was sitting down.
He was left sketching what he had witnessed and has since dedicated his life to seeing more.
Makers of the new Big Cats series described how his efforts have been rewarded.
“In all those years Andrew has managed to capture just one video and just 60 photos,” say the BBC team.
“The video remains just one of the only two ever recorded of a wild bay cat — it goes to show just how little we know about these animals.
“For Andrew having another encounter with a bay cat would be like winning the lottery all over again, yet he’s determined to persevere.
“Now he faces a race against time as Borneo is suffering one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, much of it to make way for palm oil plantation.
“One thing Andrew has discovered is that the bay cat disappears once the forest is cleared for palm oil.”
Big Cats: BBC One, 8pm. January 25.
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