Is this Mystery Cat a New Species?

World Land Trust (WLT) has reported a possible new species of cat in Fundación Jocotoco (FJ), Ecuador.

The cat is thought to be of the same (yet to be described) species as one seen two years ago in Peru.

The cat was seen and photographed by Aldo Sornoza of FJ, who was helping with the construction of a new visitors’ lodge on the Jorupe Reserve.

If this is the same cat as seen in Peru, it would be the first known sighting in Ecuador.

It’s quite possible however, that it is not a new species.

Andean Cat?
One possibility is that it’s an Andean Cat (Oreailurus jacobita), which is one of the most endangered wild cats on Earth. Also known as the “Andean Mountain Cat” and “Mountain Cat”, this species has been listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) since 2002.

Lou Jost of Fundación EcoMinga, an Ecuadorian partner of the WLT has seen the Andean Cat twice. When presented with Sornoza’s photo of the new cat, Jost commented:

“The ground color is very similar. However I didn’t see any strong patterns on the legs, like this one has, though I would not have seen that from the angles I had (just the back and sides of the animal running through dense vegetation, both times). The elevations of my sightings were very high, around 2800-3000 m, and very wet, completely different from Jorupe. I could easily imagine that there is a new species of cat endemic to the Tumbesian zone of SW Ecuador and NW Peru.”

Pampas Cat?
But according to Mongabay.com, ecologist Jim Sanderson, who has spent years studying the Andean Cat, doesn’t think this is one. Instead, Sanderson believes that it is a Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocolo), another cat species he has studied for years.

“The cat shown in the photograph…is the lovely Pampas cat found in this region. Pampas cats show a variety of morphs depending upon where they occur. In Brazil they are all brown for instance and in the Andes they are spotted, have a pink nose, and striking black lines across the forelegs” he said.

The Pampas Cat, also known as the Chilean Pampa Cat, has been listed by IUCN as “Near Threatened” by IUCN since 2002.

Regardless, it’s Still a Significant Find
Whether it’s the Andean Cat, the Pampas Cat, or a new species, this is still a significant find. So, as WLT said… “we are awaiting with anticipation further news on this sighting.”

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