our planet we have 36 species of wild felines, of which around
70% is found with some degree of threat; direct hunting and habitat
destruction are the main threats for them. In the American continent
we have 12 wild cats and 10 of them are considered as small cats
or of medium size.
The Andean cat (Oreailurus jacobita) is one of these
small cats and is only found in the high regions of the Andes
of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru; is considered as the feline
species with the major degree of threat in America and one of
the least known cats in the world. At present, is found
among the five cats most threatened worldwide.
The Andean cat, along with the pampas cat (Oncifelis colocolo),
were considered as sacred species by some Andean cultures, and
were related with the abundance and welfare; their skins are still
being used in ceremonies where people mark their native cattle
(llamas and alpacas) or at the beginning of the sowing or harvest
period. Both species are known as "titi", "titimisi" or "titiphisi" by
Aymara people and as "osqhollo" by Quechua people.
wild cats play an important ecological role in an ecosystem,
because they are at the top or near to the food chain. Since
they are carnivorous, they help to the control of prey populations
that are part of their food. The small cats usually feed
on several classes of mice and small birds or of medium size.
The study of the Andean cat is a priority of the Cat Specialist
group Action Plan (UICN), and since 1998 different teams of researchers
from Argentina, Bolivia and Chile initiated field surveys, with
the purpose to obtain basic information on the distribution and
conservation status of the species. In Peru these activities
began in 2002.