The Andean cat is one of the rarest and least-known cats in the world.
Measuring up to two feet long, 14 inches high and between 8-13 pounds, the Andean cat is distinguished by its ash grey and yellowish-brown facial markings, InHabitat reports. The cat’s ears are rounded and stick up, while their long tails stretch 70% of their body length to help them balance on the mountainous Andes terrain.
According to Animalia, this elusive creature lives exclusively in the Andes Mountains and Patagonia steppe, where climates are harsh and food is scarce.
Sadly, because of many human factors, the Andean cat population is rapidly decreasing—with estimates of fewer than 1,400 remaining today, InHabitat reports.
Andean cats are hunted for food and used for spiritual ceremonies by indigenous communities. Around livestock, the Andean cat is hunted as a pest. But these threats pale in comparison to the environmental destruction, habitat loss and fragmentation caused by extensive mining, fracking, expansion of agricultural activity and inadequate livestock management, the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada reports.
This elusive creature lives exclusively in the Andes Mountains and Patagonia steppe, where climates are harsh and food is scarce.
Since 2013, Patagonia as well as some of the most vulnerable and biodiverse regions of the South Andes have been bound by a fracking agreement between Argentina, Chevron, and Argentine YPF oil company. The agreement allows the Vaca Muerta shale reserve to be exploited for crude oil. This poses a great threat to all the inhabitants of the Southern Andes and Patagonian range in the region, especially endemic and vulnerable populations like the Andean cat, according to a study published in the Cambridge University Press.
There are no Andean cats in captivity. Almost all we know about this species comes from a few observations made in the wild, Cat in Thin Air reports.
Outside of a few packs, the major Andean cat habitat is isolated to the high desert of the Andes, which means land conservation can make an impact on the survival of the species, according to Alianza Gato Andino.
The Andean cat lives in the mountainous regions between Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
To save the Andean cat, GreaterGood.org is working with local partners at Fundación Vida Sylvestre with the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society, to purchase 115,000 acres of crucial habitat to conserve into perpetuity. This high desert region is home to unique wildlife including the Andean cat, as well as the Guanaco, Andean Condors, and Geoffrey’s Cat.
GreaterGood.Org has already been able to successfully secure 40,000 acres of land in this critical region, and is working on protecting the remaining 75,000 acres that is available.
Help us protect the Andean cat from extinction!
Police and wildlife official enforcement of these policies is sparse, with some of the areas the cat lacking frequent policing or any enforcement at all, reports Virginia Commonwealth University. Because the range of the Andean Mountain cat spans four different countries each sect of law enforcement is acting independently of each other, leading to uneven distribution rates and inefficient policing.
You can also help save this species by asking the governments of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina to place stronger regulations on mining and agricultural activity on Andean cat habitat.
This article by Matthew Russell was first published by The Animal Rescue Site. Lead Image: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / LUPO – THIS ELUSIVE CREATURE LIVES EXCLUSIVELY IN THE ANDES MOUNTAINS AND PATAGONIA STEPPE, WHERE CLIMATES ARE HARSH AND FOOD IS SCARCE.
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