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Andean Mountain Cat

Andean Mountain CatAndean Mountain Cats were first described to science in 1865, but it was not until 1980 that a positive sighting was made. Two scientists observed and photographed this rare cat for two hours, and their observations are the only information available on the behaviour of this species. The scientists had done field work in the area over 30 times with no sightings, indicating this cat's scarcity and ability to hide among rocks and vegetation. In 1999, a second set of pictures were finally taken of this elusive cat by a biologist in Chile.

Zoological name: Oreailurus jacobita

Species: Long known as a member of the Felis genus, a separate generic status (Oreailurus) has now been proposed for this species because its skull has unique double-chambered bullae. No subspecies have been accepted.

Presence on the planet: As the name implies, this species occurs in the high Andes. It has a very restricted distribution in arid areas from northern Chile and northwest Argentina to southern Peru and southwest Bolivia. The rocky, treeless zone where the mountain cat lives is windy, dry and very cold. The type specimen, on which the official description is based, was collected in southwest Bolivia. Most specimens have been collected above 3,000 metres and one in Peru above 5,100 metres. It is said to occasionally enter the snow regions.

Habitat: Only found in a rocky, arid to simi arid range. The mountain cat habitat is specialized. Above timberline in small shrub and grass area, among rock piles where the viscachas survive in colonies.

Diet: Nothing specific is known about the diet of this species, but it probably preys on small mammals such as chinchillas and viscachas. Lizards and small birds are also potential food, the Andean mountain cat is almost certainly an opportunistic predator as are the other felids. Through limited observations it appears that the main source of prey are the wild mountain dwellers- however it is probably fair to assume that additional prey will include other small rodents, insects and birds native to its range. Due primarily to its rarity rather than by pressures bought about by hunting, the mountain cat is listed as an endangered species

IUCN status: Population densities of this species are unlikely to be high. The range is very restricted so total numbers cannot be large. These factors coupled with our uncertainty about the ecology of the Andean mountain cat led the IUCN to recommend that it be totally protected throughout its entire range. Hence the IUCN staus is vulnerable.

Life span: 16 years

Save the wild!
Andean Mountain Cat The Andean cat is considered to be the second most endangered wild cat in the world and perhaps the rarest South American felid; and yet is one of the least known cat species It is very rare, and its similarities to the more common, but unrelated, South American pampas cat (Oncifelis colocolo) have made studying this species even more difficult. Its closest relatives are in fact the ocelots (Felis (Leopardus) pardalis) and margays (L. weidii) of South America which inhabit tropical forests .There have been only a handful of observations of the Andean cat in the wild, four photographs taken and just a few museum skins and skulls have been preserved .It is described as a small but sturdy cat, with long ash-grey fur patterned with rusty red spots. The sides are marked with thick dark stripes extending down from the back and prominent dark grey bars run across its chest and forelegs .The tail is thick and long, at about 70% of the cats head/body length, and is banded with approximately seven dark rings. Its nose is black, and its belly pale with dark spots . The Andean cat is characterised by the presence of well developed ear drums, unique among felids, classifying it as a separate genus , Oreailurus.

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