A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Tag Archives: andean cat
September 29, 2012Posted by on
Andean Cats Oreailurus jacobita are one of the most beautiful of all wild cats. The fur is mainly ash grey with brown-yellowish blotches that are distributed as vertical lines at both sides of the body, giving the appearance of continuous stripes. Extremely thick, plush fur of silvery grey is very fine and soft, up to 5 cm long on the back, and the underside is pale with dark spots. Prominent dark grey bars also run across the chest and forelegs. The backs of the large, rounded ears are dark grey, and the nose is black.
The legs also have dark and narrower blotches or stripes, but they don’t form complete rings. Large feet are marked with blackish bars and spots, and the soles are greyish-brown. Their magnificent tail is about 70% of the body length. Because the underside has hair as long and as thick as the upper side, it appears perfectly round. It is ringed with six to nine dark bands, and has a black tip. The long tail is probably used for warmth, wrapping it around the body when asleep, tucking their nose inside.
The Andean Cat is a medium-sized felid; from measures of skins the total length in adults varies from 740 to 850 mm; tail length is from 410 to 485. Only two records on the weight are available, the first from a sub-adult specimen in Peru, which weighed 4 kg, and the second from an adult female which weighed 4.5 kg.
There is no variation between the fur colour of males or females, but differences between juvenile and adult specimens have been found. The juveniles have a lighter coloration and more and smaller blotches, which means the young can be confused much more easily with Pampas Cats Leopardus colocolo.
These cats are found on the high Andes of Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina and Chile. They are apparently very specialized in their habitat requirements, having been found in the rocky arid and semi arid zones above the timber line, up to 4,000 metres. Vegetation consists mainly of small scattered dwarf shrubs and clumps of bunch grass, with numerous rock piles and boulders.
In 2002, an Andean Cat and kitten were sighted in a reserve in San Juan province, Argentina, which extended their known distribution south by 500 kilometres. Field work in 2004 found evidence of these cats in the foothills and steppe on the eastern side of the Andes Mountains. These new records are the lowest ever reported, and extend their distribution to scrub habitat within the Patagonian steppe. The foothills population has a patchy distribution, and is thought to coincide with that of their main prey species.
The only population estimate available was for a 25,000 ha area in northern Chile, where it was estimated to be one cat per 5 km². Reduced genetic diversity has also been found in the northern Chile population, suggesting a small historic population size. Signs of their presence decreased with proximity to human settlement.
The total population size could be below 2,500 mature individuals, with a declining trend. Their distribution coincides with the historic range of the mountain chinchilla, which was hunted to the brink of extinction for the fur trade a century ago. Their diet reveals a preference for another member of the same family, the mountain viscacha, which lives in patchily distributed small colonies, and has also declined due to hunting pressure.
The ecology and behaviour of these cats is barely known. Most of the reported sightings of Andean Cats have been during daytime; however, current studies through camera traps and observations of a radio-collared animal indicate the activity is mainly at night or crepuscular. The activity pattern of the Andean Cat is likely related to feeding habits of its main prey species.
Researchers have found that Andean Cats are much more dependent on the viscacha than the Pampas Cats, which take a wider variety of prey. Pampas Cats were also more abundant that Andean Cats, even at higher altitudes, and competition for viscacha prey could negatively impact the Andean Cat.
The Andean Cat is perhaps a solitary species, but may be seen in pairs or with cubs during mating season and after births. Mating season, according to local people in Bolivia, is between July and August; however is possible that this period is extended until November or December due to the fact small cubs have been observed in October and April. Nothing more is known of their reproduction.
Habitat loss though extensive mining, resource extraction for fuel and cattle grazing are the main threats to the Andean Cat, followed by hunting.
Hunting by local people who consider the Andean Cat a predator of their small domestic livestock has been frequently reported. These cats are also killed by dogs accompanying local shepherds, and hunted for food and traditional medicine in central Peru. While they have full protection at national levels, law enforcement is problematic, and recently hunted specimens have been observed in the field and for sale in special markets.
Andean Cats are considered sacred animals according to indigenous traditions. Throughout much of their range, dried and stuffed specimens are kept by local people for use in harvest festivals. Hunting for such cultural practices may represent a significant threat to the species. In Argentina’s Catamarca province, 69% of people interviewed said they had hunted the small cats.
Although the Pampas Cat looks quite different in other parts of its range, in the high Andes the two species look similar, to the extent that local people and scientists find it difficult to distinguish the two.
The Andean Cat has seldom been observed in the wild by scientists. However, the number of recent distribution records has greatly increased due to the efforts of the Andean Cat Alliance, a network of specialist researchers formed in 1999. There are no known Andean Cats in captivity, and few museum specimens. The Andean Cat is one of the few small cat species listed as Endangered (2008).
For more information, see The Andean Cat Alliance
October 26, 2011Posted by on
Reprinted with permission of the Andean Cat Alliance, a group of professionals from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru working to develop coordinated actions for the conservation of the Andean cat and its habitat.
Andean cats show up in photos and paintings in Lauca National Park, Chile
By Agustin Iriarte, Rodrigo Villalobos and Nicolas Lagos
During the first half of 2011 we have been very active in the Region XV of Arica and Paranicota, with education campaigns and new surveys. The team produced new, colourful education materials in Spanish and Aimara, the native language, including 1000 posters and 1000 brochures with information about Andean cats and the fauna and flora of the High Andes. We distributed these materials among 12 rural schools and discussed with students about the threats Andean cats face and why it is import to protect them. In the schools of Ticnamar and Putre the children created amazing paintings depicting animals of their region in great detail and with bright colours.
At the same time, Andean cats made themselves visible in 10 of our camera-traps, distributed in 31 sites over an area of around 2,000 km². Our intensive work, with a sampling effort of 5,842 trap-nights, was amply compensated by images of seven different Andean cats, among them two kittens!
The Itinerant Exhibition spreads the plight of Andean cats in Bolivia
By Gabriela Aguirre
Through informal environmental education the Itinerant Exhibition brings information about Andean cats and High Andes biodiversity to many students, to the general public in El Alto city, the local Zoo Vesty Pakos Sofro and to Sunday fairs in La Paz. Our main objective has been to raise awareness of the need to protect Andean cats and the High Andes ecosystem as a whole, and to create positive attitudes towards conservation.
As a result, more people know about Andean cats and are aware of their conservation challenges, mainly from hunting. When people possess the knowledge needed to develop a positive attitude, they become active conservation subjects themselves, wokring in favour of the protection of Andean cats and their habitats. This is a versatile education strategy that the Andean Cat Alliance will soon implement in other regions and countries.
Protecting Andean cats from persecution in the Patagonian steppe
By Susan Walker, WCS Argentina – Patagonian and Andean Steppe Program
The population of Andean cats of Patagonia was only discovered in 2005. Genetic analysis indicates a long history of isolation of this population from the cats of the Andes. In Patagonia, Andean cats are killed by goat herders who consider them a threat to their goats. During the past year we documented numerous recent killings of Patagonian cats, especially in one large plateau of southern Mendoza. Here at least 12 herders have seen Andean cats, and at least 10 of the cats have been killed since 2008. Given the natural rarity and low density of this species, and that we have probably not documented every cat killed, this rate of killing could result in extinction of an important sub-population, interrupting connectivity with the southernmost cats in Neuquén province.
We are seeking to prevent this local extinction through a pro-active approach to immediately stop killing of Andean cats in the plateau, including “payment for services” to herders when photos of Andean cats are taken on their lands, in addition to continuing to provide them with assistance for reducing predation losses.
Establishing the foundations for long-term conservation of Andean cats in Bolivia
By Juan Carlos Huaranca and Lilian Villalba
Our efforts are giving fruit and we can now confirm the existence of an Andean cat population in the area known as Ciudad de Piedra (Stone City) in the department of La Paz. Our camera-traps captured three different Andean cats and eight Pampas cats, with a density estimated at 0.018 and 0.049 individuals per km² respectively These results coincide with those from studies in other regions, which showed Andean cats to be the less abundant of the two felids.
Equipped with a set of camera traps, we are now planning to survey other areas in the country, in collaboration with the Institute of Ecology at the University Major de San Andres and Wildlife Conservation Society.
September 19, 2011Posted by on
May 16, 2011Posted by on
Wild cats can’t be saved without knowing what they need to survive in their natural habitat. What kind of habitat do they use? What are their activity patterns & social organizations? Without data collected by field biologists, conservation programs can’t be put in place. To further our educational efforts, we are posting regular Monday summaries of a paper written by wild cat field biologists, which briefly outlines their findings.
The endangered Andean cat Leopardus jacobita was considered an endemic of the Andes Mountains at altitudes above 3,000 m until it was discovered in the Andean foothills of central Argentina in 2004. We carried out surveys for Andean cats and sympatric small cats in the central Andean foothills, and the adjacent Patagonian steppe, and found Andean cats outside the Andes at elevation sas low as 650 m. We determined that Andean cats are widespread but rare in the northern Patagonian steppe, with a patchy distribution. Our findings suggest that the species’ distribution may follow that of its principle prey, the rock-dwelling mountain vizcacha.
Andres Novaro, Susan Walker, Rocio Palacios, Sebastian Di Martino et al
IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group Cat News newsletter
March 18, 2011Posted by on
Once thought to exclusively inhabit its namesake mountain range, the threatened Andean cat-a house cat-sized feline that resembles a small snow leopard in both appearance and habitat-also frequents the Patagonian steppe at much lower elevations, according to a new study published by the Wildlife Conservation Society and partners.
“These confirmed records show the lowest elevations ever reported for the Andean cat,” said WCS conservationist Andres Novaro, lead author of the study. “According to genetic studies underway led by Daniel Cossios, this new population appears to represent an evolutionary lineage distinct from the highland population.”
October 6, 2010Posted by on
The Americas are home to 12 wild cat species. Ten of these are small or medium sized, and one South American resident is considered one of the least known cats in the world.
The Andean Cat Leopardus jacobita is found only in the arid, sparsely vegetated elevations of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Scientists have rarely observed these cats in the wild, but one exception is the photo on the right.
Dr. Mauro Lucherini of the Grupo de Ecología Comportamental de Mamíferos (GECM) in Argentina was clambering up a steep rocky slope during an Andean Cat research project. As he reached the top, he was astonished to see the object of his field study calmly looking up at him. Fortunately, he managed to snap a few photos before the cat casually walked away – a miraculous encounter with one of the rarest cats in the world.
Andean Cats are considered sacred according to indigenous traditions. Throughout much of their range, dried and stuffed specimens are kept by local people for use in harvest festivals. Hunting for such cultural practices may represent a significant threat to the species. In Argentina’s Catamarca province, 69% of people interviewed said they had hunted the small cats.
These small cats are found in areas above the timberline, primarily in the rockiest and steepest terrain. Their distribution coincides with the historic range of the mountain chinchilla, which was hunted to the brink of extinction for the fur trade a century ago. With the loss of the chinchillas, Andean Cats now hunt a similar species, the mountain vizcacha, as their main prey species.
Researchers have found that Andean Cats are much more dependent on the vizcachas than the Pampas Cat Leopardus colocolo, which take a wider variety of prey. Pampas Cats are also more abundant than Andean Cats throughout their range, and competition for vizcacha prey could negatively impact the Andean Cat.
Although the Pampas Cat looks quite different in other parts of its range, in the high Andes the two species look similar, to the extent that local people and scientists find it difficult to distinguish the two. This makes it extremely difficult to gather population data on the Andean Cat.
Hunting by local people who consider the Andean Cat a predator of their small domestic livestock has been frequently reported. These cats are also killed by dogs accompanying local shepherds, and hunted for food and for traditional medicine in central Peru. While it has full protection at national levels, law enforcement is problematic, and recently hunted specimens have been observed in the field and for sale in special markets.
Habitat alteration and destruction, mainly by extensive mining, resource extraction for fuel, and cattle grazing is increasingly affecting the Andean Cat in some parts of its range.
The study of the Andean cat is an urgent priority of the IUCN Cat Specialist group, and in 1998 the Andean Cat Alliance (ACA) was formed by teams of researchers from Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. Researchers initiated field surveys to obtain basic information information on the distribution and conservation status of the Andean Cat. In 2004, they compiled a Conservation Action Plan for the Andean Cat.
Much is still to be learned about the rare and elusive Andean Cat, but the number of recent distribution records has greatly increased due to the efforts of the dedicated researchers at the Andean Cat Alliance.