- Leopardus tigrinusBy: C.M.Shorter
The Oncilla is another of our Wild
Cats with an exquisitely beautiful fur coat. They
are typically tan to tawny in color marked throughout the length
of their body and feet with symmetrical spotted patterns, with
brown spots fading to black in coloring. Eyes are rounded, with
golden to brown irises. The Oncilla is partially arboreal and has
an exceptionally long tail for negotiating the treetop canopies.
have given the Oncilla the common names of Tigrina, Little Spotted
Cat and Tiger Cat by the local people.
is one of the smallest Wild
Cats in the South America weighing in between 4 - 8 lbs,
larger than the Asian Flat
which weighs only
a mere 3 to 5 lbs. Only its South American neighbor,
smaller within the borders of this continent and both
have an extremely clever plan for survival! The Kodkod made
a niche for surviving by taking up residence in Chile along
the coastal borders which is relatively void of competing
carnivorous species. Whereas the Oncilla prefers the high
mountain forest and is found at elevations much higher
than the other
smaller competing species within their territories such as
In Columbia they are found almost exclusively in areas above
1,500 metres and range up as far
as 4,500 metres to the mountain snowline where the Puma
Although the Oncilla has a petite frame, they
are agile climbers and excellent hunters. The Oncilla makes meals
of smaller prey than the Margay and Ocelot sharing the same territory
which allows these species to coexist with limited competition.
Oncillas make meals of the smaller rodents, small primates, birds,
insects and reptiles indigenous in these areas. Coffee plantations,
often established in the cloud forests regions, provide some
opportunity for observation of this little studied cat and suggests
they may tolerate human interference better than the shy Kodkod
who do not adapt at all to altered man-made environments or activity.
In Brazil the Oncilla are found in subtropical forest highlands,
early secondary forests and even in the arid scrub regions.
Males are territorial patrolling boundaries and are known to
be aggressive towards females of the species. Few Oncilla exist
in Zoological Parks and they do not breed well in captivity with
a very high infant mortality rate. Widely hunted
for the fur trade and exploited like the Jaguar,
Leopard has taken its toll on the Oncilla population.
Now offered protection with the exception of Ecuador, Guyana,
Nicaragua and Peru where hunting is allowed, the Oncilla is increasingly
rare and now placed on CITES Appendix I.
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Scientific Name: Leopardus tigrinus
Common Name(s): Oncilla, Tiger Cat, Little Spotted Cat
Range: Costa Rica into Northern Argentina
Average Weight: 2 - 3kg (4 - 8lbs)
Length: 75 - 95 cm (30 -39")
Diet: Carnivorous. Smaller rodents, small primates, birds, insects
Gestation Period: 74 - 76 Days
Cub Maturity: 6 - 8 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 3 Kittens
Lifespan: 10 - 14 years in the wild. Captive individuals recorded
to live up to 23 years.
Social Structure: Solitary
Territory Size: 22-58km (12-32 miles)
Conservation Status: Offered no protection with hunting allowed
in Ecuador, Guyana, Nicaragua and Peru. Placed on CITES Appendix