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Andean Mountain Cat (Leopardus Jacobita)

The Andean Mountain Cat is the most endangered small wild cat of America. The body length ranges from 57 to 64 centimetres (22 to 25 inch), the tail length is 41 to 48 cm (16 to 19 inch), the shoulder height is about 36 cm (14 in) and the body weight is 5.5 kilograms (12 lb).

It is one of only two felids for which no subspecies have been classically described. They cannot live in captivity. All Andean mountain cats died as soon as they were captivated. Fewer than 2500 individuals are thought to exist. This cat is one of about two dozen small wild cat species found around the world. Unlike their larger cousins, such as lions and tigers, with millions of dollars dedicated to conservation efforts, small wild cats like the Andean Mountain Cat have not found a place in the hearts of the public, and conservation efforts exist on budgets in the thousands.

The Andean Mountain Cat’s preferred high-elevation montane habitat is fragmented by deep valleys, and its distribution is likely to be further localized by the patchy nature of colonies of its preferred prey, mountain viscachas. The total effective population size could be below 2,500 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to loss of prey base and habitat, as well as to persecution and hunting for traditional ceremonial purposes, and no subpopulation having an effective population size larger than 250 mature individuals.

While the Andean Mountain Cat’s main prey likely is the mountain viscacha, it is also probable that mountain chinchillas were previously important prey of the Andean Mountain Cat, before their populations were drastically reduced due to hunting for the fur trade. Since it lives only in the high mountains, human-inhabited valleys act as barriers, fragmenting the population, meaning that even low levels of poaching could be devastating. It is often killed in Chile and Bolivia because of local superstition.

Sanderson is still heavily involved with the Andean Cat. With coworkers Constanza Napolitano, Lilian Villalba, and Eliseo Delgado and many others in the Andean Cat Alliance, the Small Cat Conservation Alliance (SCCA) has forged conservation agreements with Fundación Biodiversitas, a Chilean non-profit organization, and CONAF, the government agency responsible for managing national parks and production forests. CONAF has agreed to allow the SCCA to renovate a building for the Andean Cat Conservation and Monitoring Center on their already functioning compound at San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.

Villalba of the Andean Cat Alliance conducted a major research program, including radio-telemetry studies, from 2001 to 2006 in the Khastor region of southern Bolivia. Exclusively for Wild Cats Magazine she and her colleagues wrote THIS ARTICLE.

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Cat of the month

Tsuchina Leopard Cat

The number of Tsushima leopard cats, an endangered species found only on Tsushima Island in Nagasaki Prefecture, is shrinking, a survey by the Environment Ministry shows.

Only 70 to 100 of the animals are left on the island, according to the survey, which was released Wednesday.

Thirteen of the cats were killed in traffic accidents during fiscal 2012 alone, while a decline in their prey, including mice and birds as well as insects in the summer months, is accelerating the downtrend, the ministry said.

The ministry monitored the cat’s population between fiscal 2010 and 2012 through cameras and by analyzing DNA from their droppings.

In the previous survey from fiscal 2002 and 2004, the ministry estimated that around 80 to 100 Tsushima leopard cats were living on the island.

The ministry said it will explore the reasons behind the species’ decline in greater detail and draft measures to increase their numbers, for instance by returning to the wild those that are being bred in zoos in Nagasaki Prefecture and other parts of the nation.

The species was designated as a special natural monument by the government in 1971, and, two decades later, as a national endangered species.

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