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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

Margay (Leopardus Wiedii)

wildekatvandemaandmargay1The Margay is a spotted cat native to Central and South America. It roams the rainforests from Mexico to Argentina. The margay is similar in appearance to the Ocelot, though itïs body is smaller, growing up two 25-27 inches and in comparison with the Ocelot, the margay displays longer legs and tail.

SONY DSCMost notably the Margay is a much more skillful climber than its relative, and it is sometimes called the Tree Ocelot because of this skill. Whereas the Ocelot mostly pursues prey on the ground, the Margay may spend most of its time in the trees, leaping after and chasing birds and monkeys through the treetops. The margay climbs head-first down trees. Its ankles can turn up to 180 degrees, it can grasp branches equally well with its fore and hind paws, and it is able to jump considerable distances. The Margay has been observed to hang from branches with only one foot.The Margay can jump vertically 18 feet and jump horizontally 23 feet.

soortbeschrijvingmargay3The range of the margay extends from Mexico down through Peru, parts of Paraguay to the northern areas of Argentina. The cats markings are similar to that of the ocelot and its smaller relative the tiger cat or oncilla – having dark ringed rosette markings on a tawny to yellow/buff background. However the rosettes are commonly less well defined than in the ocelot and appear more frequently as solid blotches along its back – regional differences in overall coat colour occur, with margays from mountain elevations having darker and thicker coats than there lowland forest neighbours. The margay lives exclusively in forested areas and is the most accomplished climber of all its fellow cats. Totally at home in the branches, it has specially adapted claws and ankle joints which can move through 180 degrees, enabling it to move with almost monkey like ease amongst the tree tops. Its agility is demonstrated by the apparent ease at which the cat can scamper down the trunks of trees head first and run upside down beneath branches.

soortmargay4The margay hunts almost exclusively by night and its prey includes birds, small monkeys, tree frogs and insects which inhabit the forest canopy – however it will also take prey from the ground and has been know to supplement its diet with fruit. Little is known of this small cat but the pressures of hunting for its fur and for the pet trade has led the margay to be threatened in many areas of its habitat. In the north of its range it is now almost extinct and it is listed in CITES many areas of its habitat. Some say itïs now almost extinct and it is listed in CITES Appendix 1 as an endangered species, others claim now that itïs listed “Near Threatened”.

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