A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
Featured Feline: Kodkod
September 15, 2010Posted by on
The Kodkod, or Guiña, Leopardus guigna is the smallest wild cat in the Americas. It also has the smallest distribution of any South American cat, being found only in Chile, and a small portion of Agentina.
These tiny cats are strongly associated with the moist temperate forests characterized by the presence of bamboo in the understory. The Kodkod is also tolerant of altered habitats, and can be found in secondary forest and shrub on the fringes of settled and cultivated areas.
Kodkods are nocturnal only in the presence of humans, and are naturally active day and night if undisturbed. They are ground-dwellersl for the most part, although they have well developed climbing abilities, sheltering in the trees during the day and when pursued. Prey items are small mammals such as mice and rats, birds, insects and reptiles.
The major threat to the Kodkod is logging of its temperate forest habitat, and the spread of pine forest plantations and agriculture. Lower densities have been found in plantation forest, which was only used if it was close to native forest or had native forest regeneration in the understory.
On Chiloe Island off the southern tip of Chile, subsistence farmers have cleared much of the land, and Kodkods are found only in small corridors of brush left standing to divide fields and along roads. They will cross the roads only when the trees cast dark shadows.
Kodkods are also viewed negatively as poultry killers, with 81.4% of families interviewed in a rural area of southern Chile considering them “damaging or very damaging”.
During the first field study of these little cats on Chiloe Island, researchers found the local people believed this little cat was a vampire, sucking the blood of its prey. This error resulted from their finding two puncture marks on the neck of domestic poultry, which were actually the punctures from the cats’ canine teeth. By talking to the schools and farmers, researchers did much to dispel this myth.
The most important conservation measure for this cat is providing wildlife corridors between native forest patches. It is also important, in areas such as Chiloe Island where they are considered livestock pests, to improve chicken coops and reduce conflict.
There are very few pictures of the Kodkod, and even fewer videos. This amazing footage is from BBC’s Planet Earth documentary, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.