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Andean cat

Leopardus jacobita

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What are the characteristics of the species?

  • The Andean cat, Leopardus jacobita, is a small feline with a head and body length of 74-85 cm and a tail length of 41-50 cm. The general color of the mantle is grayish with reddish spots arranged in transverse lines. The legs have black bands that do not close to form rings. Its coat is dense, its nose is black and its iris is brown. Two dark horizontal lines, called rinars, are placed on the face next to the eyes. The tail of this species is characteristically thick and long (two thirds of the length of the body, approximately), with 6-8 thick dark rings and topped with a light colored tip.

  • The available information about its natural history from research, interviews with locals and fortuitous sightings indicates that the habitat that you prefer is in rocky areas located in the high Andean puna where colonies of vizcachas and other rodents live.

  

Where do we study the species?

 The study area includes the watershed Huamanga - Vischongo (ELU 6) and the high mountain ranges of Apacheta (ELU 8), located in the high Andean region of the Departments of Ayacucho and Huancavelica.

 

What questions do we seek to answer with the study?

  • What is the population abundance and range of distribution of the Andean cat in the area of ​​influence of the pipeline?

  • What are the effects to the potential impacts identified for the populations of Leopardus jacobita?

  • What is the relationship between the abundance of L. jacobita and that of the vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum), which is recognized as its main prey?

  • What relations exist between the inhabitants of the area of ​​influence of the project and L. jacobita?

 

 What general results have we obtained to date?

  • A total of 87 latrines were found, of which 37 were found in plots near the pipeline and 50 in the control plots. In the plots that were visited in the two sampling periods, a total of 56 latrines were found, 27 of which (48.2%) contained feline feces.

  • 293 samples of feces were collected from possible felids, of which 183 were collected during the first sampling period and 110 during the second. In the control plots, a total of 144 fresh feline feces were found, while in the plots with influence of the pipeline 149 feces were found.

  • We identified 10 categories of fecal food: rodents of the genera Akodon / Calomys (could not differentiate between them), rodents of the genera Phyllotis / Auliscomys, Abrothrix sp., Neotomys sp., Unidentified cricetid rodents, vizcachas, birds, reptiles, sheep and plant material. Small rodents accounted for 60.5% of the items consumed, while vizcachas represented 14.0% and birds 19.0%.

  • The results of the interviews indicate that, while the foxes, pumas and skunks are seen as harmful animals by the population of the area of ​​influence of the pipeline and are usually hunted for it, small wild cats are perceived as harmless species and are not persecuted . Unlike other areas, in the study area there seem to be no superstitions that incite local people to kill cats (as in the Peruvian Departments of Puno and Tacna), nor the custom of using their skins in religious ceremonies (as in Puno). , Tacna and Arequipa), in traditional dances (as in Vilcashuamán, Coracora, and Puno) or in food (as in certain areas of Ancash).

 

Why is the conservation of this species important?

  • L. jacobita is considered by the Peruvian Legislation as Endangered species (Supreme Decree No. 034-2004-AG), one of the highest conservation categories. Worldwide, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature also considers the Andean cat as an Endangered species because the size of the total population is estimated at less than 2,500 mature individuals, with a tendency to decrease, since there is no sub -populations containing more than 250 mature individuals.

  • Likewise, the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna includes L. jacobita in Appendix I, its highest category, which includes endangered species that are or may be affected by trade in your skins.

  • The hunting of L. jacobita has two main causes, its use for ceremonies performed by some Andean cultures and the persecution for considering it a harmful animal for domestic species.

  • The size of the populations of L. jacobita is small, a situation that has the risk of local extinctions in the face of environmental changes, diseases and natural disasters, as well as the aforementioned threats.

  • The fragmentation of the habitat of the Andean cat, by the settlement of human populations, the advance of the agricultural frontier and the development of other human activities such as extensive livestock and mining, have a negative effect on the distribution of the species, which could result in a reduction of its genetic variability.

(Foto: CCS/SCBI)