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Little Spotted Cat

Little Spotted CatAlthough the oncilla is very similar in appearance to the other small cats of the South American Leopardus genus, the ocelot and margay, it is found at higher elevations and is apparently not sympatric in the stronghold of the other species ranges, the Amazon basin. While it may be most common in montane cloud forest, it also has been reported from dry deciduous forest, semi-arid thorny scrub, and degraded secondary vegetation in close proximity to human settlement.

Zoological name: Leopardus tigrinus

Species: It is a close relative of the ocelot and the margay; its habitat is the tropical rainforests of Central central_and South America . The Little Spotted Cat is a nocturnal animal, which hunts for rodents and birds.
- "Leopardus tigrinus tigrinus'', eastern Venezuela , Guyana , northeastern Brazil.
- "Leopardus tigrinus guttulus'', central and southern Brazil , Uruguay , Paraguay , northern Argentina.
- "Leopardus tigrinus pardinoides'', western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador.

Presence on the planet: The oncilla appears to have a naturally disjunct distribution, although further research is necessary to confirm this. It has been recorded from Costa Rica and northern Panama, but not from the remainder of the Darien Peninsula connecting Central America to South America. There are no records from the Amazon basin, and the oncillas range appears to be restricted to montane and subtropical forest.

Habitat: Little spotted cats are found in subtropical forests and prefer humid evergreen and montane cloud forests 40 to 3,000m above sea level (Mondolfi, 1986; Redford, 1992). Little spotted cats have also been reported in semi-arid thorn scrub in northeastern Brazil, dry deciduous forests in Venezuela, abandoned eucalyptus plantations, and areas affected by deforestation.

Physical Description: Little spotted cats have a yellowish-red to greyish-yellow coat with rows of large, dark rosettes and a pale underside which is less spotted than the rest of the body. The tail has black rings and a black tip. Totally black forms of this cat can occur. They are slender-bodied with a slim head and round ears.

Diet: Little spotted cats feed primarily on small mammals such as rodents as well as small birds. They have even been reported to prey on small primates in Brazil

Reproduction & Offspring: Information on reproduction in little spotted cats comes from mating pairs in captivity. Females undergo estrous for several days with a gestation period of 74-78 days. Young are altricial. A litter consists of 1-2 kittens and kittens open their eyes at about two weeks of age. Young become sexually mature after two years of age.

Little Spotted Cat Conservation status: It is difficult to assess threats to the oncilla when so little is known about it. Its cloud forest habitat is being lost to coffee plantations, but observations of it in deforested areas and eucalyptus monoculture on the outskirts of Sao Paolo suggest tolerance of habitat alteration (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The oncilla has been trapped in the past in large numbers for the spotted cat fur trade.

Life span: 15-20 years
Unexplored wildness!

This species has never been studied in the wild, and there is little understanding of its habitat requirements, density, and coexistence with other small cats. It has been trapped in large numbers for the fur trade -- in 1971, 28,000 pelts were counted in Brazilian warehouses, and in 1983, 84,500 skins were exported from Paraguay although it is likely that other spotted cat pelts were mixed with oncilla. It is rarely seen by field biologists.

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