Andean Cat

Andean Mountain Cat

The Andean Mountain Cat (Leopardus jacobitus or L. jacobita) is also known as the Andean Cat. Its habitat and appearance make it the small cat analogue of the Snow Leopard. While it is only about the size of a domestic cat, it appears larger because of its long tail and silvery-gray, striped and spotted long fur. The body length is about 60 cm (24 in), the tail length is 42 cm (17 in), the shoulder height is 36 cm (14 in) and the body weight is 5.5 kg (12 lbs). It is one of the least known and rarest of all felines; almost all that is known about it comes from a few observations in the wild and from skins. There are none in captivity. It is believed to live only in the high Andes mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. It has been sighted at elevations of 5,100 meters, well above the tree line.

Since it lives only in the high mountains, human-inhabited valleys act as barriers, fragmenting the population, meaning that even low levels of poaching could be devastating. It is often killed in Chile and Bolivia because of local superstition.


Conservation International (CI) ecologist Jim Sanderson has been studying it. He sighted and photographed one in Chile, in 1998, near Chile's northern border with Peru. Later, in 2004, he located and radio-collared one in Bolivia. In April 2005, it was found dead, perhaps after being caught in a poacher's trap.

Lilian Villalba of the Andean Cat Alliance is conducting a major research program, including radio-telemetry studies, from 2001 to 2006 in the Khastor region of southern Bolivia.


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