Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Leopardus wiedii
Species Authority: (Schinz, 1821)
Common Name(s):
English Margay, Tree Ocelot
Spanish Gato Montés, Caucel, Gato Pintado, Tigrillo
Taxonomic Notes: This species is genetically very diverse across its range and shows a high degree of population structure, with three distinct clusters: Central America and Mexico, northern South America and southern South America. The demarcation between northern and southern South America was identified as the Amazon river. In Central America, there were weaker differences between populations from the north (Mexico and Guatemala) and those from the south of this region (Eizirik et al. 1998).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is declining through much of its range due to human induced conversion of native forest habitats to agriculture and pasture and is predicted to continue at a rate approaching (but less than) 30% over the next 18 years (3 generations). Although Amazonia is often considered a stronghold for the species, recent estimates suggest that the species is not as abundant as previously perceived (Oliveira et al. in submission). Over the next 10 years it is predicted that degradation of the Amazon by roads, fire and deforestation will fragment and isolate remaining populations. Protected areas outside of the Amazon are not expected to retain viable populations over the next few years (and likely do not at present) (Oliveira et al. in press). This species will likely qualify for VU A4c in the near future and should be periodically reviewed (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
Previously published Red List assessments:
2002 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Insufficiently Known (K)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)
1982 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The margay ranges from the tropical lowlands of Mexico south through Central America and the Amazon basin and southern Brazil and Paraguay (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It occurs marginally in northern Argentina and in Uruguay along riverine forest (Dotta et al. 2007). It generally occurs from 0-1,500 m; however, it has rarely been recorded up to 3,000 m in the Andes (Oliveira 1994).
Countries occurrence:
Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Uruguay; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Upper elevation limit (metres): 1500
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: This species is predominantly rare throughout their range (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). In general, margays occur at densities <5 indiv/100 km², but have been estimated as high as 20 indiv/100 km² in some highly localized areas (Oliveira et al. in submission). Where ocelots co-occur, margay densities are expected to be much lower than 5 per 100 km² (Oliveira et al. in submission). The margay is negatively impacted by ocelot numbers and does not seem to attain effective population size for long term persistence in any Conservation Unit outside the Amazon basin possibly due to the “ocelot effect” (Oliveira et al. in press). Thus, viable populations are expected to occur mostly outside protected areas or where ocelot numbers are low. With the exception of the Amazon mega-reserves, it is not expected to be adequately protected anywhere else. Margays are undergoing a continuing decline due primarily to habitat loss to deforestation (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007). Considered Vulnerable in Brazil (Machado et al. 2005) and Argentina (Diaz and Ojeda 2000), and Near Threatened in Colombia (Rodriguez-Mahecha et al., 2006) and Threatened in Mexico (SEMARNAT 2002) and Costa Rica (MINAE).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The margay is strongly associated with forest habitat/tree cover, both evergreen and deciduous, although it has been occasionally reported outside forested areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996). It seems to be absent from the semi-arid scrub of the Caatinga domain in Brazil, with the possible exception of some evergreen forest enclaves (Oliveira pers. comm.). It appears to be less tolerant of human settlement and altered habitat than its close relatives, the ocelot and oncilla, but does make use of it. This species is thought to be more arboreal and better adapted to live in trees than other cat species. Margay will use highly disturbed forest, abandoned plantations and other agroforestry systems which provide sufficient tree cover (Schipper pers. comm.; Oliveira pers. comm.).

The margay is a small-sized (3.3 kg) solitary felid, with an average litter size of 1.09 (1–2) (Oliveira and Cassaro 2005). Activity pattern is predominately nocturno-crepuscular, with few records of daytime activity. Prey base consists mostly of small mammals, birds and reptiles, with average prey size at 1 kg). Although margays are highly arboreal, most prey recorded are terrestrial (Oliveira 1998). The limited information on home range size varies from 1 to 20 km². The margay occurs at low population densities throughout most of its range, and its numbers/densities are negatively impacted by the larger ocelot, its potential intra-guild predator/competitor (Oliveira et al. in press, in submission).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The margay has been one of the most heavily exploited Latin American cats decades ago. Margays began to appear in international trade at a time of concern over the level of exploitation of the ocelot, and species of spotted cats in trade were rarely verified. Illegal hunting for domestic markets or for the underground skin trade has been reported to be a continuing a problem in some areas (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Current threats to this species include habitat loss, fragmentation, roads, illegal trade (pets and pelts - animals sometimes enter the pet trade), and retaliatory killing (animals are often shot due to depredation on poultry). Populations, especially outside the Amazon basin, are severely fragmented and are being reduced by habitat conversion to plantations and pasture. The species is susceptible to disease outbreaks (in Tamaulipas, MX there is an ongoing threat from disease). In Brazil, populations of the Atlantic forest are more threatened than those of the Amazon (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007)

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix I. This species is protected across most of its range, with hunting and trade prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Populations in protected areas are expected to be very low, likely because of the impact of the higher ocelot densities (Oliveira et al. in press, in submission). Further studies are required on the species ecology, demographics, natural history, and threats.

Citation: Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. 2008. Leopardus wiedii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T11511A3290201. . Downloaded on 10 October 2015.
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