There are those who are eaten to the brink of extinction and those who are hunted for profit to the brink of extinction. Then there is the rare Andian cat; hunted and killed to the edge for religious ceremonies and beliefs. Like the pampas cat, they are considered sacred and offered up accordingly. The Andean cat, whom I daresay far from appreciates this, is also considered to be one of the most endangered felids on the planet. Despite this; they are still killed, stuffed and skinned.
These animals occupy a very inhospitable environment. They blend in well with the terrain, are not much bigger than a domestic cat and are sparsely distributed. Consequently, sightings have been as rare as the creature itself, and knowledge is limited.
Small, sturdy and furry, the coat is silver-grey with brown stripes and orange blotches. The pale underside is strewn with dark spots. The tail is long, thick and fluffy with dark rings. The Andean cat is possibly solitary, although adults have been recorded in pairs. Birth is thought to occur between October and April. Only two litters have ever been observed, both with two young.
Originally, the major prey species of the Andian cat was mountain chinchilla. Then a huge demand arose for the fur of these sweet little animals. This led to the chinchilla being almost hunted to extinction as well, and the Andian cat being deprived of its food base. Through necessity, mountain vizcacha became its major prey. The Andean’s nocturnal habits are now thought to be related to this change and the feeding habits of mountain vizcachas. This was a classic case of having to adapt rapidly or perish.
Rocky, arid and semi-arid, and sparsely vegetated zones of the high Andes above the tree-line.
The Andes mountains, through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru.
What they eat
Mountain viscachas and mountain chinchillas, when they can get them.
Hunting for traditional practises (stuffed cats and skins are used in religious ceremonies in the belief they will bring good fortune). Loss of natural prey. Hunting for food, and for traditional medicine in central Peru, and hunting for pelts. They are also often killed in retaliation for loss of small livestock. Destruction of habitat by extensive mining, resource extraction for fuel and cattle grazing. Disease from domestic animals.
The Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered. Only 2,500 are believed to be still alive, and there are no known Andean cats in captivity. Significant efforts are being made by various non-profit making organisations to help protect and preserve this species, and laws in all four South American countries, where the Andean cat is present, have been passed accordingly. Each country now has protected areas where hunting is banned.
To update this post, I would like to add a link to another post about the Andean cat. This is a wonderful article by Carmen Mandel. I can highly recommend taking a look, especially at the updated images and videos. The Elusive Gato Andino
“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures”
The Dalai Lama