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Smallest wild cat in the Americas faces big problems — but hope exists

24 / 01 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

The smallest wild cat species in the Americas faces big problems as its habitat dwindles and it’s targeted as a farm pest. But a new study shows it may be able to persist in a human-dominated world — if farmers and policymakers give it a hand. The güiña (Leopardus guigna), also known as kodkod, weighs 2 to 2.5 kilograms (4.4 to 5.5 pounds), eats birds and rodents, and is only found in the temperate rainforests of Chile and western Argentina. It’s listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with habitat loss and illegal killing considered the major causes of its decline. A güiña (Leopardus guigna) is captured by camera trap. Photo courtesy of Nicolás Gálvez. Habitat destruction is one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss globally. Converting forests and grassland for agricultural use usually results in widespread population declines. Indeed, scientists consider land conversion to be the main cause of the precipitous decline of many large carnivore species around the world. Smaller, more omnivorous species like foxes and coyotes appear to be less susceptible to the negative effects of habitat loss as they are more adaptable and can adjust their diets relatively easily. But what about those that eat only meat, like cat species? Part of a group called obligate carnivores, cats can’t shift their diets to non-meat sources. Nicolás Gálvez, a lecturer at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, has had an interest in the güiña ever since one killed his chickens when…

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