Leopardus guigna


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Leopardus guigna
Species Authority: (Molina, 1782)
Common Name(s):
English Guiña, Kodkod, Chilean Cat
French Guigna
Spanish Guina
Oncifelis guigna (Molina, 1782)
Taxonomic Notes: Taxonomy is currently under review by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group. Placed in the genus Leopardus by Johnson et al. (2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2abc; C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-04-20
Assessor(s): Napolitano, C., Gálvez, N., Bennett, M., Acosta-Jamett, G. & Sanderson, J.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Schipper, J., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Lucherini, M.

Relative to Neotropical cats and felids in general, the tiny Guiña has a restricted extent of occurrence (300,000 km²). Most of the species area of occupancy is suffering from increasing landscape fragmentation due to logging, habitat conversion to pine plantations, agricultural and livestock activities. An annual forest loss rate of 4.5% per year (67% reduction of total forest area) for the period 1975-2000 was estimated for Chilean temperate rainforests. Future trends predict similar forest loss rates for the period 2010-2020. Given that vegetation cover is one of the most important ecological requirements for Guiñas, there is an evident threat through ongoing habitat deterioration and reduction. Evidence suggests landscape fragmentation is associated to reduced genetic diversity and population size decline. Also, various Guiña subpopulations may be going through a current size reduction, as inferred by a pattern of Ne >> N (bottleneck). Retaliatory killings for poultry predation and road kills are frequent death causes in fragmented landscapes, decreasing Guiña population numbers. In fragmented landscapes, Guiña home ranges are larger than in pristine areas and density is lower. Emerging diseases facilitated by increased contact probabilities with domestic cats in fragmented landscapes, along with climate change may also constitute important potential threats for Guiñas. Based on the best supporting evidence, this species qualifies for Vulnerable under criteria A2abc. Index of abundance used to apply Criteria A2a is based on DNA samples, camera-trapping and radio-tracking data. Index of abundance used to apply Criteria A2b followed data based on multiple lines of evidence as mentioned above. Data used to apply Criteria A2c is based on the decline in area of occupancy (AOO) and habitat quality as estimated on the annual forest loss rate of 4.5% per year for the period 1975-2000. Based on this estimate, a population decline of at least 30% is suspected in the past over three generations (18 years). We used realistic input data to estimate plausible lower and upper bounds for the total number of mature individuals, which range from 5,980 to 92,092. Following the Red List Guidelines, we used a precautionary approach by considering the lower bound estimates. In the case of total number of mature individuals, the lower bound is <10,000 individuals. For each subpopulation, four of the six geographic groups have ≤1,000 mature individuals. Based on the best supporting evidence, this species qualifies for Vulnerable under criteria C2a(i). However, if we use the higher population bounds, two of the six geographic groups with >1,000 estimated mature individuals, or if the rate of decline is lower than suspected, Near Threatened may also be a possible category for Guiña.

2008 Vulnerable
2002 Vulnerable
1996 Vulnerable

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Guiña, the smallest felid in the Americas, also has the smallest distribution, being found primarily in central and southern Chile (30°-48°S) and marginally in adjoining areas of southwestern Argentina (39°-46°S west of 70°W) from sea level to 2,500 meters. Its extent of occurrence is estimated at approximately 300,000 km2. The Guiña occurs over most of its range, but its area of occupancy is fragmented due to loss of its native temperate forest habitat. A metapopulation approach estimated that there were 24 separate subpopulations in central Chile (Acosta-Jamett et al. 2003). On the eastern limit of the range, in Argentina, it is sympatric with the Geoffroy’s Cat (Lucherini et al. 2001). It is also found on the large island of Chiloe off the coast of southern Chile (Sanderson et al. 2002).

Two subspecies are recognized based on morphological and genetic data: L. guigna tigrillo (from 30°-38°S in Chile) inhabits mediterranean matorral and sclerophyll woodlands and forests in northern and central Chile and has a lighter coat and larger body size. L. guigna guigna (from 38°-48° in Chile and 39°-46°S in Argentina west of 70°W) inhabits more-dense Valdivian temperate rainforest and north Patagonian forest in southern Chile and the Andean Patagonian forest in southwestern Argentina and is darker and smaller (Napolitano et al. 2014).

Argentina; Chile
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The total number of mature individuals inhabiting the distribution range was estimated. Given that most geographic areas throughout Guiña range are suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation, we followed a precautionary but realistic approach and used density estimates for fragmented landscapes (0.77-0.05 individuals/km2). Using total surface area for each geographic group, we assumed exclusive home ranges, 80% of total area occupied (excluding urban areas, water bodies and wetlands) and 50% of the population being mature individuals.

Density estimates include:
  • Fragmented landscape in Chiloé Island, Chile: 0.77-0.05 individuals/km2 (Sanderson et al. 2002)
  • Pristine landscape in Laguna San Rafael and Queulat National Parks, Chile: 3.3-0.45 individuals/km2 (Dunstone et al. 2002).

Number of mature individuals estimated for each geographic group (lower and upper bounds):
Northern group: 1,600-24,640 mature individuals
Central group: 1,000-15,400 mature individuals
Lake District group: 1,800-27,720 mature individuals
Chiloé Island group: 180-2,772 mature individuals
Argentinian group: 1,000-15,400 mature individuals
Laguna San Rafael group: 400-6,160 mature individuals
Total number of mature individuals: 5,980- 92,092 (lower bound <10,000 individuals).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Vegetation cover is an important ecological requirement for Guiña, as it typically occurs in forest types with heavy understorey, probably used for dispersion, stalking prey and reproduction. In its northern range, the species is found associated to Mediterranean Matorral composed of sclerophyll forest and thicket. In its southern range, the species is strongly associated with moist temperate mixed forests of the southern Andean and Coastal ranges, particularly the Valdivian and Araucaria forests of Chile, which are characterized by the presence of Southern Beech (Nothofagus spp.) and bamboo in the understorey. In Argentina, the species has been recorded in moist montane forest which has Valdivian characteristics, including a multi-layered structure with bamboo, numerous lianas and epiphytes (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Lucherini et al. 2000).

Guiñas are relatively tolerant to altered habitats, being found also in secondary forest, exotic pine and eucalyptus plantations, fragmented landscapes and on the fringes of rural settlements and agricultural areas (Sanderson et al. 2002, Acosta-Jamett and Simonetti 2004). In central Chile, guiña densities were lower in exotic pine plantations compared to primary native forest, and plantations were only used when close to native primary forests or regeneration understorey (Acosta-Jamett and Simonetti 2004). In southern Chile, where it is found in beech Nothofagus forest, Freer (2004) found that areas of dense shrubby understorey (thicket-forest) were preferred over primary forest. In the highly modified human agricultural landscapes of northen Chiloé Island, Guiñas exclusively use vegetation corridors (as small as 3 m wide) to move among forest fragments, avoiding open areas (pastures with vegetation <0.4-m high) (Sanderson et al. 2002). The presence of these corridors is important to connect larger habitat areas, and is likely an important component of the species long-term persistence in human dominated landscapes (Sanderson et al. 2002, Acosta-Jamett et al. 2003, Acosta-Jamett and Simonetti 2007). Along with vegetation corridors, safe road crossing elements such as culverts, overpasses and underpasses are also important to favour Guiña connectivity in fragmented landscapes (Sanderson et al. 2002).

Guiñas display facultative, differential home range size, dispersal range and spatial overlap in relation to landscape features (Napolitano 2012, Napolitano et al. submitted). In fragmented landscapes, home ranges are larger than in pristine areas and thus, density is lower. Home range size of Guiñas in the highly modified, fragmented landscape of northern Chiloé Island was 1.3-22.4 km(Sanderson et al. 2002), while in two pristine protected areas in the Aysén Region (Laguna San Rafael and Queulat National Parks) was 0.3-2.2 km2 (Dunstone et al. 2002). Maximum dispersal distances of Guiñas in fragmented landscapes was 13.9 km (mean=5.5±4.9) (Sanderson et al. 2002), while in protected areas was 1.83 km (mean=1.49±0.25) (Dunstone et al. 2002). Regarding spatial overlap, in fragmented landscapes Guiñas displayed exclusive intrasexual home ranges (females can be found within the range of males) (Sanderson et al. 2002), while in protected areas extensive overlap of home ranges and core areas was observed (Dunstone et al. 2002).

Guiñas are agile hunters and mainly hunt on the ground. They fed primarily on small mammals, especially rodents, but also small marsupials, birds and reptiles are frequently taken (Correa and Roa 2005). They scavenge opportunistically on carrion (Freer 2004).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Current main threats for guiñas include habitat loss and fragmentation, and direct persecution by humans. 

Human population and deforestation are increasing in the Chilean temperate rainforest; In the northernmost part of its range, Guiñas inhabit the Chilean Matorral ecosystem, where more than half of the country’s total human population live and which has been dramatically reduced by habitat conversion to agricultural lands, leading to local extinctions and population fragmentation. Central and Lake District populations are suffering from extensive and intensive habitat loss and fragmentation by habitat conversion to pine plantations and logging of the remnant temperate Valdivian rainforest (Willson et al. 2005, Echeverría et al. 2006, 2008). On Chiloé Island, native forests have been largely cleared and fragmented over large areas to support domestic fowl, grazing and farming, leaving only remnants of the original forest surrounded by a human-modified matrix (Armesto et al. 1998, Sanderson et al. 2002). In its southernmost range, human density is lower, there is a greater amount of forest cover and agricultural lands are more frequently surrounded by a concentration of protected areas. An annual forest loss rate of 4.5% per year was estimated for the period 1975-2000 in Chilean temperate rainforests (equivalent to 67% reduction of total forest area) (Echeverría et al. 2006). These trends have not ceased and will continue into the future. Future trends predict similar forest loss rates for the period 2010-2020 (Echeverría et al. 2008). Due to its restricted distribution and ecological requirements, the Guiña is especially vulnerable to increasing trends of habitat loss and fragmentation.

Evidence suggests that increased landscape fragmentation is associated with reduced genetic diversity in Guiñas (Napolitano et al. submitted). Small population size would be the major force driving the decrease in genetic diversity of Guiñas inhabiting fragmented landscapes (e.g., low carrying capacity, local extinctions, road kills). This scenario is also supported by a pattern of Ne >> N found in various subpopulations throughout Guiña distribution range, showing they may be going through a current size reduction (i.e., genetic bottleneck) (Napolitano et al. 2014).

On the other hand, most people in rural landscapes of central and southern Chile have negative attitudes towards Guiñas, arguing livestock and poultry losses (Herrmann et al. 2013, Zorondo-Rodríguez et al. 2014). 81.4% of 43 families interviewed in a rural area of southern Chile considered Guiñas “damaging" or "very damaging”, although there was only a single recent report of a Guiña killing 12 hens in a henhouse (Silva-Rodríguez et al. 2007). Illegal killing as retaliation for poultry depredation is the most likely outcome when a Guiña is caught within a chicken coup. On Chiloe Island, two out of seven radio-collared Guiñas were killed while raiding chicken coops (Sanderson et al. 2002). Retaliatory killings for poultry depredation accounted for 39.4% of the total 38 Guiña samples collected during a three-year study in Chiloé Island (Napolitano 2012, Napolitano et al. submitted).

Guiñas also get killed by dogs and cars. Road kills are a major death cause, specially in fragmented landscapes, where they accounted for 29% of the total 38 Guiña samples collected during a three-year study in Chiloé Island (Napolitano 2012, Napolitano et al. submitted).

Other threats include diseases and climate change; Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) infection was recorded in Guiñas and sympatric domestic cats in human perturbed landscapes on Chiloé Island, suggesting a possible interspecies transmission facilitated by increased contact probability through human invasion into natural habitats, habitat fragmentation and poultry attacks (Mora et al. in press). On the other hand, climate change is also an important potential threat for Guiñas. It has been showed that the distribution range of Guiñas in Chile will decrease under climate change scenarios (Marquet et al. 2010).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included in CITES Appendix II and protected by national legislation in Argentina and Chile (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Using a broad approach for population distinctiveness based on genetic and ecological exchangeability (Crandall et al. 2000), two management units were proposed for the conservation of Guiñas, which correspond to the two identified subspecies (Napolitano et al. 2014). Within these management units five genetic groups were identified, displaying significant variation on patterns of genetic diversity, biogeographic history and conservation threats among them. 

Guiñas are recorded in 16 protected areas in Chile, but many are too small to support viable populations (Acosta-Jammett et al. 2003). In Argentina, it is known from three national parks: Lanin, Nahuel Huapi and Los Alerces (Nowell and Jackson 1996), although densities may be low. The spatial extent of protected areas alone is not enough for the long-term viability of Guiña populations, thus incorporating private lands outside protected areas is crucial for Guiña conservation (Simonetti and Acosta-Jamett 2002, Acosta-Jamett et al. 2003, Haines et al. 2006, Gálvez et al. 2013). This depends heavily on positive perceptions and attitudes of land owners and rural people towards Guiñas (Silva-Rodríguez et al. 2007, Herrmann et al. 2013). Future conservation challenges for Guiñas outside protected areas will hinge on fostering positive attitudes of land owners towards Guiñas, increasing local awareness and participation to reduce conflict in areas where they are considered poultry pests, improving chicken coops and highlighting the services provided by its role as controller of mice carriers of Hanta virus and exotic European Hares (Lepus europaeus) (Silva-Rodriguez et al. 2007, Gálvez et al. 2013, Napolitano et al. 2014).

Conservation efforts should focus on preserving vegetation corridors to facilitate connectivity between forest fragments or larger forested areas, along with providing safe road passages to decrease mortality by road kills (Dunstone et al. 2002, Sanderson et al. 2002, Gálvez et al. 2013). Vegetation corridors are essential to maintain viable Guiña populations for their long-term survival in increasingly fragmented landscapes.

Further studies are required on the species ecology, demographics, natural history, and threats (IUCN Cats Red List workshop 2007). Priorities should be aimed at understanding the level of habitat loss and fragmentation at which the survival of the species is at risk. Regarding diseases, future studies should include elucidating the potential pathological effect and emerging disease risk Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) infections may have for Guiña populations.

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Citation: Napolitano, C., Gálvez, N., Bennett, M., Acosta-Jamett, G. & Sanderson, J. 2015. Leopardus guigna. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 July 2015.
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