Leopardus jacobita

Andean cat

Leopardus jacobita

Andean cat

Description

The Andean cat has long, thick, grey fur with rusty-brown spots and dark stripes. It has white fur around the mouth and under the eyes, which makes every adult look like an oldie. The hair is the longest on the back and tail, on which it forms several dark rings (6-9).

Most cats have a breast devoid of design, but Andean one has distinctive horizontal stripes on it. Cat from the Andes also have small eyes with round pupils.

These cats, with age, lose the intense colour of markings on the fur and remain mainly grey.

All dimensions and descriptions come from the only captured specimen of the Andean cat and a small number of photos.

Behaviour

Thanks to one specimen of the Andean cat that has a collar with a transmitter, we know something about the behaviour of these very elusive cats. Their characteristic feature is shyness and adoration of loneliness. Males look for company only during the mating season, and females also have it when raising young kitties.

Andean cats only inhabit the very rocky upper parts of the Andes overgrown with scarce vegetation. They activate there mainly at night, occasionally showing up during the day.Cats focus in places with access to running water and prey. Andean cats mainly hunt for viscachas and other small mammals. Earlier their main prey were chinchillas, but their populations disappeared from the Andes. So they also hunt for birds and lizards.

A very thick and bushy tail helps the Andan cat to balance when jumping over the rocky slopes of the mountains. Eyewitnesses say that it does it very swiftly, despite the inconspicuous appearance.

Thanks to the observed kittens, it is assumed that the mating season of these cats may begin with the holiday season. The only hideout available for cats are piles of stones and caves, so it is assumed that they disappear during the day and give birth to their young there.

Threats

The considerable fragmentation of the population is a major threat to Andean cats. Cats are separated from each other and cannot interbreed, which makes their genes weak.
Although hunting and trade with Andean cats are forbidden, this law does not protect them in a sufficient way and their population is still decreasing. The skins removed from Andean cats are still seen on the black market. Those cats are extremely threatened with extinction.

Chileans and Bolivians believe that seeing Andean cat brings bad luck and to prevent this, tradition requires the cat to be killed. Another tradition is to keep the stuffed and dried skins of this animal by the peoples living in the Andes. They use them for magic, rituals and festivals.

The cat’s environment is changing resulting in less and less land availability.

A significant threat to Andean cats is also the lack of knowledge about them, because it is not known exactly how to protect them and how much do they need this help.

Source of picture: https://news.mongabay.com/2017/02/field-notes-finding-jacobo-an-andean-cat-captivates-conservationists/

Author: Małgorzata Banaszkiewicz

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