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Kodkod - smallest  wild cat in the western hemisphere

 

Of the South American felids the Kodkod, called the Guigna by local people, makes its home in the countries of Chile and Argentina with a limited population found on Chiloe Island, off the southern coast of Chile. They inhabit the moist temperate forests of the southern Andean and coastal ranges of Chile and Argentina. Usually found in coniferous forest, the Kodkod has also been found in semi-open habitats.

 

TheyA Kodkod standing in a tree are the smallest cat species in the western hemisphere and are extremely reclusive and do not adapt well to areas disturbed by humans. Normally they would travel and hunt during the day, but in populated areas, they become nocturnal to avoid human interference. They are very shy and will only make passage across roads in the forest under cover of the shadow of trees. Small size has advantage here as they have not historically been hunted for its exquisitely marked pelt. The Kodkod is caught in traps and used as bait for foxes by local farmers. It is the larger males who frequently take domestic livestock of free-range chickens and geese while females staying closer to home surviving instead on small rodents and insects.

 

This Wild Cat is small, weighing only 4 - 6 lbs and about half the size of a domestic Cat. They are buff or grey brown in color and are markedKodkod walking. Notice the very short think tail with round blackish spots on the upper and lower parts, with some black streaking on the head and shoulders. The tail is narrowly ringed with black color and the backs of the ears are black with white spots. There is a high incidence of melanism, which seems to increase with latitude. Guignas may be a subspecies of Geoffroy's cat. Kodkod's have carved out a special niche taking up residence where there is a scarcity of larger carnivorous predators and in an area where small rodent prey is plentiful.

 

Quite rare in the wild and currently threatened by extensive habitat destruction. In view of their extremely restricted distribution this must be regarded very seriously and they are protected over much of its range. Unfortunately they are not being housed in any zoological facilities currently, however there are present attempts being made at captive breeding in Sounth America by private study. Although actual wild population is not known, their numbers continue to decrease resulting in their placement on CITES Appendix II.

 

As with many of the small wild cat species of the Americas very little is known of the lifestyle of the small spotted feline. It is believed to be mainly a nocturnal hunter, presumably preying on small rodents, birds and reptiles. The cat is a forest dweller and is able to climb well. As with its lifestyle, little is know of the size of population of the kodkod, but loss of natural habitat due to forestry and logging activities, pose a constant threat.