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Margay - Leopardus wiedii

By: C.M.Shorter

The Margay is perhaps the truest Jungle Cat completely dependent on cover of the treetop canopy throughout its Central and South American range. This medium size cat shares territory with the Ocelot but is much more arboreal. The Margay has unique physical features for surviving forested habitat. Their feet are exceptionally broad with mobile toes and flexible ankles allowing them to rotate 180º making them very efficient hunters and effective at moving about from tree to tree. Margays are quite capable of climbing down a tree head first. When moving about the tree canopy, should they fall, they can stop the fall by grasping onto limbs with their hind feet setting themselves upright. They are exceptionally agile climbers and excellent jumpers. Captive individuals have been reported to make leaps in excess of 18 feet vertically and over 28 feet horizontally, which rivals the Cougar for athletic ability as shown in our TigerHomes DVD: Power Cats "Locked and Loaded".
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This medium sized Wild Cat is very reclusive and avoids areas of human disturbance much like the Kodkod who resides to the south of them in the countries of Chile and Argentina. Margays are totally restricted to the dense forest habitat of Central and South America with the northernmost portion of their range in Mexico. They are found in humid areas of tropical evergreens, deciduous forests, cloud forests, swamp savannahs and montane timberline areas made of large coniferous trees. The Margay occasionally will take up residence on local coffee and cocoa plantations if provided cover of large trees.

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The Margay has a beautiful soft coat, longer than that of the other South American Wild Cats, usually brownish yellow to tan in color. The coat is marked with black spots and carries blotches of dark rosette patterns with those markings revealing lighter centers of the base coat color. Facial markings are distinguished with two dark stripes running from the inside corner of each eye across the muzzle and a horizontal stripe extending over the forehead. Mouth, legs and undersides are a snow white in color.

As is true with many arboreal mammals, like the Jaguar these members of the felid family have long tails sometimes comprising as much as 70% of their body length. These extremely long tails serve as rudders for balance are used to help navigate. Primarily active at night, they have very large rounded nocturnal eyes with vision far superior to that of a human to help them hunt effectively. Prey consists of small tree dwelling rodents, opossums, squirrels, sloths, monkeys, porcupines, birds, insects and occasionally fruit which is eaten primarily for moisture content.

Little is known about their social structure in the wild and the Margay does not adapt well to captive environments with more than a 50% infant mortality rate. The Margay is one of the most hunted cats in the world like the Jaguar, Snow Leopard, Leopard Cat and Ocelot for their beautiful coats. Even though protected throughout most of their range, with the exceptions of Ecuador, Guyana and El Salvador, it is said the Margay is the most common pelt found in the illegal markets, particularly in Mexico. Combination of three factors: over-hunting for the fur trade, capture for the pet market and massive deforestation have put the Margay at great risk so much so this little Wild Cat, never common and becoming increasingly rare, has now become an Endangered Species being listed on CITES Appendix I.

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Scientific Name: Leopardus wiedii
Common Name(s): Margay, Tree Ocelot, Long Tailed Cat
Range: Central and South American, parts of Mexico
Average Weight: 3 - 9kg (9 - 20 lbs)
Length: 86 - 130 cm (34 - 52")
Diet: Carnivorous. Small tree dwelling rodents, opossums, squirrels, sloths, monkeys, porcupines, birds, insects and occasionally fruit for moisture content.
Gestation Period: 76 - 85 Days
Cub Maturity: 10 - 12 Months
Cubs Per Litter: Only 1 Kitten born per year.
Lifespan: 12 - 14 Years in the Wild. Captive individuals have been recorded to live up to 18 years.
Predators: Man. Major Threat: Deforestation.
Social Structure: Solitary except for breeding.
Territory Size: Smaller territory, primarily arboreal with territories of 12 - 16km (7 - 9 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix I.

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