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What is a pampas cat? Candid Animal Cam is back in the Americas

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the pampas cat.

This cat may look like a domestic cat, but it’s not! This is the pampas cat, found in South America. Their distinguishing feature is their broad face that is sometimes marked with two eye stripes, their short tail with brownish-black rings and their pink nose. This cat is adapted to more habitat types than any other Latin American cat. Even though its name is derived from its association with the pampas habitat, which is another word for open grasslands plains, this feline also lives in forests, semi-arid deserts, mangroves, swampy areas and rocky sites. The pampas cat has a wide distribution all over South America, from northern Ecuador to southern Argentina, including Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. Despite its wide distribution range in South America, little is known of its status in the wild. The pampas cat is classified as Near Threatened but we don’t know how many individuals there are. Watch the video to learn more about these beautiful creatures.

Special thanks to the Peruvian Desert Cat Project for the camera trap footage that was taken in the desert and dry forest of Piura and Tumbes in Peru. The organization started the project in 2015 looking for the pajonal cat (Leopardus colocola) in places where it had never been recorded before, such as the Sechura desert and the dry forests of northern Peru and southern Ecuador. After registering its presence for the first time in 12 localities and finding that most of the rural inhabitants do not know of its existence, they decided to focus the study on its populations in the Sechura desert (hence the name of the project), due to the extreme aridity of this ecosystem. The Peruvian Desert Cat Project is currently studying its spatial ecology (home environment and habitat selection), diet, genetic diversity and threats in two locations, the San Pedro de Vice Mangrove and the Illescas Reserved Zone. Besides attending national and international scientific workshops and events, the team is developing environmental education activities for school children to raise awareness of this unique cat.

Review questions for educators

These questions can help provide a framework for exploring topics presented in this story.

• Name 2 features that distinguish the pampas cat from other cats.

• What does nocturnal and terrestrial mean about the pampas cat’s behavior?

• What does ‘generalist predator’ mean? 

Banner photo by ZooPro via Wikimedia commons


Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino