|Scientific Name:||Leopardus jacobita|
|Species Authority:||(Cornalia, 1865)|
Felis jacobita Cornalia, 1865
Oreailurus jacobita (Cornalia, 1865)
Oreailurus jacobitus (Cornalia, 1865) [orth. error]
Oreailurus jacobitus (Cornalia, 1865)
|Taxonomic Notes:||Taxonomy is currently under review by the IUCN SSC Cat Specialist Group. Previously recognized as belonging to a monotypic genus Oreailurus (Cabrera 1940, Wozencraft 1993, Nowell and Jackson 1996, Yensen and Seymour 2000), the Andean Cat is included in the genus Leopardus. The genus Leopardus includes most small Neotropical felids, and speciation within it has been relatively recent compared to other felid lineages (Johnson et al. 2006). While there is strong support for inclusion of the Andean Cat in this genus based on genetic analysis, how closely it is related to the Pampas Cat L. colocolo remains unclear. The classification of the Andean Cat as Oreailurus was based in part, from very few specimens, on the relative size difference in the skull's auditory chambers, but this trait is also found in other felid species (Johnson et al. 1998, Garcia-Perea 2002). The specific name, jacobita, is in honour of Jacobita Mantagazza (Cornalia 1865) and should not be declined to jacobitus (Yensen and Seymour 2000) as is sometimes seen in the literature. This is one of only two felids for which no subspecies have been classically described (Nowell and Jackson 1996).|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1|
|Assessor(s):||Villalba, L., Lucherini, M., Walker, S., Lagos, N., Cossios, D., Bennett, M. & Huaranca, J.|
|Reviewer(s):||Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Schipper, J., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.|
|Contributor(s):||Iriarte Walton, A., Madrid, A. & Palacios, R.|
The most recent information confirms that the Andean Cat is a rare species, occurring at low densities and with a patchy distribution due to a specialization for rocky habitats.
New records of the Andean Cat in Argentina extended its distribution range to the south and outside the Andes, into Patagonian steppe and shrub habitats, at elevations as low as 650 m (Novaro et al. 2010, Martinez et al. 2008). However, a study of the population genetics of the Andean Cat throughout most of its range (Cossios et al. 2012) indicated that the species has a very low mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity and identified two distinct Andean Cat populations that should be considered as two "Evolutionary Significant Units” (ESUs), the highland cats from the previously-known distribution and the newly-discovered population in the Patagonian steppe. Moreover, the northern ESU contains two genetically different groups, showing limited or no exchange of individuals between them, which should be considered as two "Management Units” (MUs).
Habitat loss and degradation is an increasing concern in most areas where the Andean Cat is present, due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier, inadequate livestock management and water extraction, as well as water and soil contamination for a growing mining and petroleum industry activity in the South American highlands and the Patagonian steppe. The Andean Cat will be affected negatively by global climate change throughout most of its range by a decrease in the geographical distribution (Bennett et al. submitted) and more recently by rapid expansion of exploitation of shale oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing or fracking in northern Patagonia (Walker et al. 2013).
Additionally, Andean Cats are being killed by herders in Patagonia in retaliation for predation (Novaro et al. 2010) and in northwestern Argentina high mortality rates due to hunting by local people have also been inferred (Lucherini and Merino 2008). More recently, information gathered from monitoring Andean Cats and Pampas Cats with GPS collars in north-western Argentina suggests that competition between these two species may affect negatively Andean Cat populations and make them more susceptible to the mentioned threats (Tellaeche 2015).
Based on Andean Cat distribution records an extent of occurrence (EOO) of 1,530,818 km² was estimated. However, due to the specificity of Andean Cat to steep rocky environments, this area encompasses large areas between sites of records that are uninhabitable. In a preliminary estimation in a study area of 6,863 km² in Patagonia, only 1.4% of the total area was steep rocky areas. Additionally, in a study area of approximately 65,000 km² in Patagonia, only 3% of the cells in a grid size of 10x10 km were occupied, based on confirmed and unconfirmed Andean Cat records (Walker and Palacios, unpublished data).
This estimation can have more than one source of error (for example it uses still unconfirmed records) and was calculated for the Patagonian steppe, an environment that is different from that of the highland habitats in the northern and central part of the Andean cat distribution, where there is a greater proportion of rocky habitat. Therefore, to be conservative we estimated that 10% of the current EOO of the Andean Cat could actually be occupied.
Taking into account 10% of the EOO and the lowest density of 0.018 ind/km² (Huaranca et al. 2013), estimated for a region considered to have one of the most favourable climatic conditions for the Andean Cat (Marino et al. 2011), the total population of the Andean Cat is estimated at 2,755 individuals. Because no information about population structure is available, using a default value of 50% for the proportion of mature individuals within the Andean Cat population, only 1,378 would be mature individuals (see Table 1 in the Supplemental Material).
No information exists on trends with regard to habitat modification or destruction in the distribution area of the Andean Cat; but as early as 2002, the conservation status of the Patagonian Steppe and the Central Andean Puna were considered as Critically Endangered (CR) and Vulnerable (V), respectively, with habitat loss and fragmentation the most serious threats affecting their conservation status (Olson and Dinerstein 2002). There is no evidence that this situation has improved; an evaluation of the progress in the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 mentioned that most of the different habitats, including grasslands and wetlands, are still fragmenting and degrading (SCDB 2014).
Mining activities have increased and the associate use of water resources is impacting negatively most of the areas where the Andean cat presence has been confirmed; in the case of northern Argentinean Patagonia, fracking is an additional threat (Walker et al. 2013). In Bolivia, mining is a priority activity and mainly situated in the Andean mountain range; extractive mining without environmental precautions is increasing (Ribera 2013). In Chile, mining industry is an important part of the country´s economy and is mainly developed in the northern region, where the Andean cat is distributed and water is a scarce resource. There, the fragile high Andean ecosystems are being degraded and a reduction of the wetlands is predicted in Chile because of the effects of climate change (IEB, CASEB, CCG-UC - CONAMA 2010). In the Peruvian report to the Biodiversity Convention, it is mentioned that in recent years the transformation of natural ecosystems has increased due to changes in land use, particularly by extractive activities such as mining; a trend of transformation, desertification and erosion is mentioned for the fragile wetlands and grasslands in the Peruvian Andes (Ministerio del Ambiente 2014).
Considering the threats to the Andean Cat, the natural fragmentation of the habitat and the increasing trend in fragmentation due to habitat loss and degradation, a continued decline of the population number is inferred.
Based on the available data on Andean Cat distribution and genetic analysis of samples from most areas, 10 subpopulations were identified for the Andean Cat (see Table 2 and Figure 1 in the Supplemental Material). Three subpopulations in Peru (1=north, 2=west, 3=east); two in Bolivia (4=north, 5=centre east); one subpopulation shared among south Peru, centre west Bolivia and northern Chile (6); one subpopulation shared among south-western Bolivia, centre east Chile and north-western Argentina (7); and three subpopulations in Argentina (8=north centre, 9= centre west and 10=southern west). Although some of these could be connected, more studies and more samples for genetic studies are needed.In the meantime, as a precautionary measure these 10 subpopulations are identified.
The estimate of the number of mature individuals for each subpopulation was made in the same way as for the estimation of the total number of mature individuals of the whole Andean cat species. The area of each subpopulation polygon was estimated using the Minimum Bounding Geometry, Convex hull function in ArcGIS. As these polygons are all occupied areas within the EOO, we did not reduce the area to 10% as we did for the overall range. However, even within these occupied areas, occupancy and habitat use by Andean cats is patchy, and they are constrained to rocky places associated with wetlands and/or shrublands. Thus, considering new detailed information on space use (Lucherini et al. unpublished data, Huaranca unpublished data, Lagos unpublished data), we, estimated that only 40% of each subpopulation polygon is actually used by Andean Cats, and reduced the size of all polygons accordingly (see Table 2 and Figure 1 in the Supplemental Material). The largest subpopulation is estimated to contain 172 mature individuals.
A further reason for concern about the conservation of this cat species, and for adopting a precautionary approach to its categorization is climate change. According to Bennett et al. (submitted) the current bioclimatic distribution of the Andean Cat is clearly affected by climate change. By 2080, under the scenario A2 (medium to high emissions) the distribution area is expected to decrease between 15 and 30%, depending on the cut-off point used in the distribution model. Parallel to this, the model shows an increase in elevation in the north and central distribution, which puts the species even more at risk, because the environmental conditions at higher elevations do not provide the habitat requirements necessary for the Andean cat (Bennett et al. submitted).
More studies are needed to confirm the definition of the subpopulations presented here and to improve our estimates of the population size of each one of them, but considering the precautionary principle, the analysis described above supports the classification of the Andean Cat as Endangered.
|Previously published Red List assessments:|
The Andean Cat has a patchy distribution due to a specialization for naturally fragmented rocky habitats and most presence records are from the central Andes above 3,600 meters in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. However it has also been found at lower elevations in the southern Andes of Argentina at 1,800 m (Sorli et al. 2006) and more recent records of the Andean Cat in Argentina and Chile extend its distribution range to the south and outside the Andes, into Patagonian steppe and scrub habitats in Argentina, at elevations as low as 650 m (Novaro et al. 2010, Martinez et al. 2008), and at 2,200 m in Chile in the Atacama Region (Villalobos et al. in prep.).
Native:Argentina; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Chile; Peru
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Until now three population estimates on Andean Cat were carried out. Napolitano et al. (2008), based on genetic sampling estimated five individuals to occur in a 25,000 ha area in northern Chile, around the Salar de Surire National Monument, resulting in a density of two Andean Cats in 100 km². More recent estimates based on systematic camera trapping resulted in 7-12 Andean Cats in 100 km² in northwestern Argentina (Reppucci et al. 2011) and in central western Bolivia, a preliminary estimate of 1.8 Andean cats in 100 km² was calculated by dividing the minimun number of identified Andean Cats by the area covered (164 km²) (Huaranca et al. 2013). In the last two studies, densities of sympatric Pampas Cats were also estimated, resulting 74-79 Pampas Cats in 100 km² in Argentina and 4.9 Pampas Cats in 100 km² in Bolivia. Reppucci et al. (2011) also estimated the detection probabilities for both species, which were higher for Andean Cat (0.07) than Pampas Cat (0.02). Other studies based mainly on faecal sample collection have found records of the Pampas Cat much more frequently than the Andean Cat (Lucherini and Vidal 2003, Perovic et al. 2003, Cossios et al. 2007, Viscarra 2008, Torrico 2009, Novaro et al. 2010, Villalba et al. 2012). All this information confirms that the Andean Cat is much rarer than the Pampas Cat.
|Current Population Trend:||Decreasing|
|Habitat and Ecology:|
The Andean Cat is found primarily in rocky and steep terrains, in arid and sparsely vegetated areas of the high Andes above the timberline, and in scrub and steppe habitats within the Andean foothills of Central Argentina and the Patagonian steppe ecological region (Napolitano et al. 2008, Novaro et al. 2010). In general, climatic conditions are extreme with very low temperatures, large daily thermal variations and low precipitation that determine the presence of adapted plants such as bunchgrasses, cushion plants, and low shrubs with small or resinous leaves (Cabrera and Willink 1973). The presence of high Andean wetlands known as “bofedales” and “vegas” is characteristic in the high Andes and are an important resource for wildlife and domestic animals (Villalba et al. 2004).
The Andean Cat is a medium-sized felid; from measures of skins the total length in adults varies from 740 to 850 mm and in sub-adults varies from 577 to 600 mm; tail length is from 410 to 485 for adults and 330 to 420 mm for sub-adults. Only two records on the weight are available, the first from a sub-adult specimen from Peru, which weighed 4 kg (Pearson 1957, García-Perea 2002) and the second is from an adult female from Bolivia which weighed 4.5 kg (Delgado et al. 2004).
|Use and Trade:||
In Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Perú people of Aymara origin, and in some cases Quechua, have similar beliefs regarding the Andean Cat and Pampas Cat (both known as titi or osqollo). A common tradition is the use of a skin or a stuffed cat during ceremonies that people perform for marking their domestic livestock, mainly llamas or alpacas; the titi is considered a sacred animal related with abundance and fertility of the livestock or quality of crops. It is important to note that both the Andean Cat and Pampas Cat are part of these traditions and beliefs, and in general, are used indiscriminately. There are some local variations within and between countries and in some cases the influence of western culture has resulted in a total or partial loss of the values of Andean cultures and the distortion of ancestral customs regarding the titi (Villalba et al. 2004).
Cossios et al. (2007) also reported the hunting of Andean and Pampas Cats for food and for traditional medicine in central Peru.
In the early 2000s the Andean Cat Alliance considered traditional hunting the top threat, followed by prey reduction and habitat loss and fragmentation (Villalba et al. 2004), four years later a re-evaluation of the threats affecting the Andean Cat, established that habitat loss and habitat degradation are the main current threats; hunting (opportunistic/palliative or traditional) and reduction of prey populations are considered as the 3rd and 4th threats, in order of importance (ACA 2011: Andean Cat Alliance Strategic Plan).
Included on CITES Appendix I (as Leopardus jacobitus). The Andean Cat’s conservation status in the range countries was also re-assessed. The species is listed as Critically Endangered in Bolivia, Endangered and Rare in Chile, Endangered in Peru and Vulnerable in Argentina; it also has full protection at the national level across its entire range, as described below. However, law enforcement is problematic, and hunted specimens are regularly observed in the field and for sale, although with less frequency than before, in special markets to be used in religious ceremonies.
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Marino, J., Bennett, M., Cossios, D., Iriarte, A., Lucherini, M., Pliscoff, P., Sillero-Zubiri, C., Villalba, L. and Walker, S. 2011. Bioclimatic constraints to Andean cat distribution: a modeling for rare species. Diversity and Distributions 17: 311-322.
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Martinez, F., Chebez, J.C., Berlanga, P., Yacante, R., and Nigro, N.A. 2008. Nueva localidad para el gato andino Oreailurus jacobita (Cornalia, 1865) en la provincia de Mendoza, Argentina. Notulas Faunisticas 26: 5.
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|Citation:||Villalba, L., Lucherini, M., Walker, S., Lagos, N., Cossios, D., Bennett, M. & Huaranca, J. 2016. Leopardus jacobita. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T15452A50657407.Downloaded on 26 September 2016.|
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