Meet the Oncilla Cats!
ONCILLA (TIGER CAT) (LITTLE SPOTTED CAT) (Leopardus tigrinus)
Oncillas are one of the smallest wildcats. Males are slighter larger than females; on average they weigh 5 pounds (2.2 kg). Oncillas’ coat is short and smooth and their rosettes and other markings are not as dark as the other small cats of South America. They prey primarily on small mammals and are more active at night. Oncillas inhabit the higher elevations of the Amazon Basin in South America.
Researchers note that estimated populations vary greatly and Oncillas like Margays are affected by the presence of Ocelots. A reduction in population size of 30% is projected due to declining areas of occupancy and habitat quality. Oncillas are among the victims of the international cat skin trade. According to IUCN, “the oncilla was heavily exploited for the fur trade decades ago, following the decline of the ocelot trade. Although international trade ceased, there is still some localized illegal hunting, usually for the domestic market. Current threats to oncillas include habitat loss, fragmentation, roads, illegal trade (pets and pelts), retaliatory killing due to depredation of poultry.” Hunting is prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela. Oncillas are listed on CITES Appendix I and as ENDANGERED under the ESA.
IUCN recommends further studies on Oncillas is required to assess ecology, demographics, natural history and threats. The IUCN also notes Oncillas need to be evaluated at the subspecies level due to genetic diversity within the species and a reassessment on the taxonomy of Oncillas is an urgent research priority as the northern portion of the population might be a distinct species.
WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society is working on a preliminary feasibility study to conduct field research on the Oncilla populations in South America.