Northern Tiger Cat (Oncilla) Leopardus tigrinus

Northern Tiger Cat (Oncilla) Leopardus tigrinus


Extant: Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Panama; Peru; Suriname; Venezuela.

Presence Uncertain: Nicaragua

The #Oncilla is a small #wildcat found throughout Central and #SouthAmerica. They are #vulnerable their main threat is #deforestation for #soy #meat #palmoil. They are also hunted for their fur #Boycott4Wildlife to help their survival!

By and large, the greatest threat is the rampant rate of habitat loss, fragmentation and isolation. In the Andes cloud forests deforestation is mostly due to conversion to agriculture but also includes palm oil, hydroelectric dams, urban sprawl and road building (Payán and Gonzalez-Maya 2011, CI 2012).

IUCN Red list

Northern Tiger Cats also known as the Oncillas are often mistaken for other South American small wildcat species such as margays or ocelots. Although oncillas are smaller, they otherwise look very similar to these species, oncillas are more slender and have larger ears.

Oncillas are mainly nocturnal but in areas like Caatinga, where their diet primarily consists of diurnal lizards, these animals are more prone to be active in the daytime. During the breeding season pairs are sometimes seen, but they are considered as highly solitary animals. Although they are primarily terrestrial, they can climb well. Young kittens purr, while adults make a short and rhythmic “gurgle” sound.

Oncillas are found in a broad range of habitats, from the lowland semi-arid Caatinga to cloud forests in the Andes. In Costa Rica the species is almost entirely confined to montane forests along the flanks of volcanoes and other high mountains from 1,000 m up to the treeline (paramo) and occupy cloud forest and high elevation elfin forests (J. Schipper pers. comm.). The Northern Tiger Cat is a poorly known small-sized (2.4 kg) solitary felid, with an average litter size of 1.12 kittens (1–4)

Northern Tiger Cats were heavily exploited for the fur trade decades ago, following the decline of the Ocelot trade (Payan and Trujillo 2006). Although international trade ceased, there is still some localized illegal hunting, usually for the domestic market. Current threats to this species include habitat loss, fragmentation, disease, road-kill, illegal trade (pets and pelts), retaliatory killing due to depredation of poultry (Oliveira et al. 2008, 2013; Payán and Gonzalez-Maya 2011; Diaz-Pulido et al. 2013; Marinho 2015).

You can support this beautiful animal

Merazonia wildlife rescue and sanctuary

International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada

Costa Rica Wildlife Foundation

The Central American Oncilla Project

Further Information

IUCN Rating vulnerable

Payan, E. & de Oliveira, T. 2016. Leopardus tigrinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T54012637A50653881. Downloaded on 07 June 2021.

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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