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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

Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)

The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized cat whose disjunct global range extends from eastern Pakistan through portions of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, throughout Bangladesh and Mainland Southeast Asia to Sumatra and Java. The closest relative is the Flat-headed cat.

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The Fishing Cat lives along rivers, streams and mangrove swamps. It is well adapted to this habitat, being an eager and skilled swimmer, like many other cats though people seem to think otherwise.

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The fishing cat has an olive grey coloured fur with dark spots arranged stripe-like running along the length of the body. The face has a distinctly flat-nosed appearance, but not as flat as its closest relative, therefore called Flat-headed cat.

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The size varies between locations. While Indian specimens grow to 80 cm (32 inch) plus 30 cm (12 inch) tail, Indonesian fishing cats only reach 65 cm (26 inch) plus 25 cm (10 inch) tail. Indian individuals weigh up to 11.7 kg (26 lbs), while in Indonesia adult fishing cats weigh in at up to approximately 6 kg (13 lbs). Male fishing cats look rather big though. They are stocky of build with medium short legs, and a short muscular tail of one half to one third of the length of the rest of the animal.

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As the name implies, fish is the main prey of this cat, of which it hunts about 10 different species. It also hunts other aquatic animals such as frogs or crayfish, and terrestrial animals such as rodents and birds. The inter-digital webs on its paws help the cat gain better traction in muddy environments and water, like other mammals living in semi-aquatic environments.

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The Fishing Cat is endangered due to its dependence on wetlands, which are increasingly being settled and converted for agriculture, and also due to human over-exploitation of local fish stocks. It is believed extirpated in Afghanistan, it may already be gone from Malaysia and China, and it has become rare throughout its remaining distribution.

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