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Pampas Cat

Pampas CatThe taxonomic evaluation of 96 museum specimens has lead to the conclusion that given the geographic differences of this cat, the "Pampas Cat" may actually be 3 distinct species: Lynchailurus pajeros (high Andes from Equador to Patagonia and throughout Argentina), L. braccatus (Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay), and L. colocolo (Chile). Molecular analysis is planned for these specimens to prove this theory.

Zoological name: Oncifelis colocolo

Species: Wozencraft (1993) classified this species in the genus Oncifelis, highlighting the close relationship the pampas cat has with the other members of this genus (Geoffroy’s cat O. geoffroyi and the kodkod, O. guigna). It has been known as a member of the Felis and Lynchailurus genera. In addition, the specific name pajeros has been used.
Seven subspecies have been described:
- F. (O.) c. colocolo Central Chile
- F. (O.) c. braccata Central Brazil
- F. (O.) c. budini Northwest Argentina
- F. (O.) c. crespoi Northwest Argentina
- F. (O.) c. garleppi South Peru and west Bolivia
- F. (O.) c. pajeros Central Argentina
- F. (O.) c. thomasi Ecuador and north Peru

The Chilean subspecies are more distinctly marked than the Argentinian individuals. The definition of the subspecies of many animals is the subject of considerable systematic controversy. Very few specimens of pampas cats exist, and classifications are sometimes based on much speculation.

Presence on the planet: Pampas cats, Oncifelis colocolo, have an expansive geographic range. In fact, they have been said to have a greater geographic range than any other South American cat. They are found in the forested slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the cloud forests of Chile, the Paraguayan chaco, open woodland areas of central, western, northeastern, and southern Brazil, the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, and southern Patagonia.

Pampas Cat Physical appearance: Pampas cats look like heavy set domestic cats, and the fur can vary from thick and soft in colder areas to thin and straw-like in warmer climates. The colour can vary from yellowish-white and greyish-yellow to brown, grey brown, silvery grey and light grey. Underparts are whitish or cream, and marked with brown or black spots. There can be red grey spots or streaks on the pelage, or the coat can be almost unmarked except for brown bands on the legs and tail. There are long, mane-like guard hairs on the back up to seven cm long, that they erect when frightened or nervous. Their head is broad with a short muzzle, and relatively large, amber eyes. The ears are somewhat pointed, and are grey black on the backs with a silvery white central spot. The legs are short and stout, marked with brown or black bars and spots. Their tail is fairly short and bushy, sometimes marked with indistinct rings.

Diet: O. colocolo preys upon small mammals, such as guinea pigs, as well as ground-dwelling birds. It has been observed taking penguin eggs and chicks from nests. Pampas cats are known to take poultry in areas of human population. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995; Garman, 1997)
- Foods eaten
- Small mammals
- Guinea pigs
- Ground-dwelling birds
- Penguin eggs
- Penguin chicks
- Poultry

Reproduction & Offspring: After a gestation of 80-85 days they produce a litter of 1-3 young. They reach maturity at around 21 months in captivity. They are also believed to have a set breeding period of April to July in captivity.

Conservation status: O. colocolo is listed in CITES Appendix 2. Habitat destruction across their range is the major threat to this species. The pampas regions of Argentina and Uruguay have been heavily settled and grazed, which is suspected to have had a negative impact on pampas cat populations. Reduction of the prey base of O. colocolo is also a problem.

Trade of pampas cat pelts was ended in 1987. This species is listed as an endangered by the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renov·veis. O. colocolo is considered a rare species according to the rarity classification of Rabinowitz, because it is found in a widespread geographic range, is a habitat specialist, and occurs at low population densities.

Life span: 16 years
The name colocolo

It is believed that Molina named this species after an Araucanian warrior chief (Colocolo). In Argentina, the pampas cat is known as the “gato pajero” or grass cat. García-Perea (1994) states that pajeros is the Spanish for straw, and that they often live in reed beds.

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