Kodkod, guiña or Chiean cat (Leopardus guigna)
The kodkod is the size of a tiny house cat but has a smaller head and shorter, thicker tail relative to its large feet and claws, which help it climb trees (4,12). It is one of the smallest cats in the Americas, joined only by the oncilla (2,10). It weighs 1.5-3 kg (10). The body is 40-52 cm and the tail19-25 cm long(11). The sexes look alike. The body is covered with buff to greyish- or reddish-brown fur, heavily patterned with small black spots that may form broken streaks on the head and neck and pale undersides and sides (2,4,10,13). Its small head has low-set ears, the backs of which are black, often with a white eyespot in the centre (10). The short, bushy tail is marked with narrow, black bands (2) and the large feet aid its proficient climbing abilities (4). Melanistic, or darker colored, kodkods are not uncommon and their stripes and spots are often detectable in bright light (4). The kodkod looks similar to Geoffroy's cat, but has less distinct stripes on its head and shoulder regions and has a have thicker tail (4). The kodkod has the the smallest distribution of any New World cat. It occurs in central and southern Chile, including the islands of Chiloé and the Guaitecas Archipelago and marginally in a small region on the eastern slopes of the Andes in western Argentina (2,7). It is the only small felid to occur over most of its range, although on the eastern limit, in Argentina, it is sympatric with the Geoffroy’s cat (8). Its area of occupancy is fragmented due to loss of its native temperate forest habitat; Acosta-Jamett et al. (9) estimated that there were 24 separate subpopulations in central Chile. The kodkod tends to live in evergreen temperate rainforests, deciduous temperate moist forests, sclerophyllous scrub and coniferous forestsand on mountains from 50-2,500 m (2,4,13). It is somewhat tolerant of disturbance, as it can be found in primary and secondary forest and scrub and the outskirts of settled and cultivated areas (3,13). It is often seen in Chilean Valdivian and Araucaria forests, which include altitudes of 1,900-2,500 m, complex multi-layered structures with bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (2,5). It also lives in Argentinian moist montane forests with bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (3,13). The presence of primary forest corridors is likely an important component of its long term persistence in human dominated landscape (7,9,14).
In southern Chile, where the kodkod lives in beech Nothofagus forest, Freer (15) found that it prefers areas of dense shrubby understory (thicket-forest) over primary forest.
Males occupy large areas, which overlap the smaller ranges of one or more females (2). On Chiloe Island, in a largely agricultural landscape, Sanderson et al. (7) found home ranges of 6.5 km² for males and 1.2 km² for females. Freer (15) reported smaller home ranges (MCP95) of 1.3 km² for males and 1 km² for females from two national parks in southern Chile. The kodkod is terrestrial and arboreal. It hunts prey on the ground, but it is an excellent climber (2) and climbs trees when escaping a pursuing predator or to take temporary shelter in the branches (4). It is primarily nocturnal, but can also be active during the day (2,4) and rests in dense vegetation, often hidden amongst almost impenetrable bamboo (2). Like most small cats, it has excellent senses of vision, hearing and smell. It probably uses chemical cues in communication as well as vocalizations, body postures and tactile cues.
This secretive predator stalks through thick vegetation and feeds on various birds, including domestic geese and chickens, and also consumes small rodents, insects and small lizards and other small reptiles (2,4,10). Kodkods in southern Chile feed mainly on rodents and other small mammals, but often take birds. They scavenge opportunistically on carrion (15). Predators of kodkods include humans and domestic dogs (6). Kodkods are cryptically coloured and secretive and avoid most predators. The larger home ranges of males may indicate that they range widely in search of multiple mates. Females give birth to litters of 1-4 young, after a gestation of 72-78 days (4). Like other small cats, the females probably provide the only parental care. They invest significantly in gestation and lactation and may provide extended care for the young, protecting them and teaching them to hunt before they become independent. The kodkod reaches sexual maturity at about 24 months (10) and may live up to 11 years in the wild (4), but a wild caught specimen was about 14.3 years when it died in captivity (1).
The kodkod is rare. Farmers may kill kodkods that take domestic poultry (10), but kodkods help control rodent populations (13).
There are two subspecies: L.g. tigrillo and L.g. guigna. The former lives in southern Patagonia and has a paler coat colour without spot markings on the feet (13).L.g. guigna lives in central Chile and has a smaller body, brighter colours and spot markings on the feet (13).<
Leopardus guigna is also known as the kodkod, guigna, or Chilean cat. It can be found in central and southern Chile, Chiloé Island of Chile, Guaitecas Island of Chile, the Andes Mountains, and western Argentina.
Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
Leopardus guigna is the smallest cat species in the Western Hemisphere, averaging no larger than a typical house cat Felis catus (Postanowicz, 2008). They weigh between 1.5 and 3 kg (Postanowicz, 2008). Kodkods have body lengths from 40 to 52 centimeters, with tail length between 19 and 25 centimeters (Nowak, Kays, and Macdonald, 2005). They have smaller heads and shorter, thicker tails relative to their large feet and claws, which help them to climb trees (Kodkod and Chilean cat, 2009). The main fur color is gray brown or reddish brown, with dark spots, stripes on their tails and dorsal sides, and pale-colored venter and sides (The World Conservation Union, 1996; Postanowicz, 2008). Some kodkods have eyespots on the backs of their ears because of their characteristic black on white fur markings (Postanowicz, 2008). Melanistic, or darker colored, kodkods are not uncommon and their stripes and spots are often detectable in bright light (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). They are similar in appearance to Geoffroy's cats (Leopardus geoffroyi) except kodkods have less distinct stripes on their head and shoulder regions and they have thicker tails (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002).
There are two subspecies: Leopardus guigna tigrillo and Leopardus guigna guigna. Leopardus g. tigrillo is found in the southern Patagonia region and can be identified by its overall paler coat color without spot markings on the feet (The World Conservation Union, 1996). Leopardus g. guigna is found in central Chile and can be recognized by its smaller body size, brighter colors, and spot markings on the feet (The World Conservation Union, 1996).
Range mass: 1.5 to 3 kg.
Average mass: 2.2 kg.
Range length: 40 to 52 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Kodkods are terrestrial and arboreal, dwelling in moist temperate forests, particularly in coastal regions like the islands of Chile. The types of forest where they are traditionally found include evergreen temperate rainforests, deciduous temperate moist forests, sclerophyllous scrub, and coniferous forests (The World Conservation Union, 1996). Kodkods are somewhat tolerant of disturbance, as they can be found in primary forest and secondary forest and scrub, as well as on the outskirts of cultivated areas (The World Conservation Union, 1996). They are commonly observed in Chilean Valdivian and Araucaria forests. Characteristics of these forest habitats include altitudes between 1,900 and 2,500 meters, complex canopy layers, bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (Acosta and Luch, 2008). Additionally, kodkods are found in Argentinian moist montane forests, which also have bamboo, lianas, and epiphytes (The World Conservation Union, 1996).
Range elevation: 50 to 2,500 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Other Habitat Features: agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
In southern Chile, where it is found in beech Nothofagus forest, Freer (2004) found that areas of dense shrubby understory (thicket-forest) were preferred over primary forest.
On Chile's Chiloe Island, in a largely agricultural landscape, Sanderson et al. (2002) found home ranges of 6.5 km² and 1.2 km² for females. Freer (2004) reported smaller home ranges (MCP95) of 1.3 km² for males and 1 km² for females from two national parks in southern Chile.
guiñas in southern Chile fed primarily on small mammals, especially rodents, but birds were also frequently taken. They scavenge opportunistically on carrion (Freer 2004).
Kodkods are carnivorous, eating mainly small rodents, reptiles, birds, and large insects (Kodkod, 2009; Postanowicz, 2008; The World Conservation Union, 1996). Observed prey species include Norwegian rats (Rattus norvegicus), Austral thrushes (Turdus falcklandii), southern lapwings (Vanellus chilensis), chucao tapaculos (Scelorchilus rubecula), huet-huets (Pteroptochos tarnii), geese (Anser anser), chickens (Gallus gallus), and Chiloé lizards (Liolaemus pictus chiloeensis) (Sunquist, and Sunquist, 2002). They sometime prey on domestic poultry, bringing themselves into direct conflict with humans, often resulting in farmers killing kodkods (Postanowicz, 2008).
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; insects
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Although more studies are necessary, research suggest kodkods help to control rodent populations (The World Conservation Union, 1996).
Known predators of kodkods include humans and domestic dogs (Lucherini and Merino, 2008). Kodkods are cryptically colored and secretive, avoiding most predators.
- humans (Homo sapiens)
- domestic dogs (Canis lupus)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Due to the rare and secretive nature of kodkods, there is little information regarding communication and perception. Like most small cats, kodkods have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. They are likely to use chemical cues in communication as well as vocalizations, body postures, and tactile cues.
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Kodkods can reach 11 years old in the wild.
Status: wild: 11 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
There is minimal information about the mating systems of kodkods because of their rarity. The larger home ranges of males may indicate that they range widely in search of multiple mates.
Kodkods have litter sizes that range between 1 and 4 offspring (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). They have a gestation period between 72 to 78 days. Breeding interval and seasonality have not been reported. Sexual maturity is reached at approximately 24 months for both males and females (Postanowicz, 2008).
Breeding interval: Breeding interval has not been reported.
Breeding season: Breeding seasonality has not been reported.
Range number of offspring: 1 to 4.
Range gestation period: 72 to 78 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 24 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 24 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
There is minimal information on parental investment in kodkods. Like other small cats, kodkod females are likely to provide the only parental care. They invest significantly in gestation and lactation and may provide extended care for the young, teaching them to hunt before they become independent.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Kodkod populations are declining, especially in central Chile. They are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and are on the CITES Appendix II list (Kodkod and Chilean cat, 2009). They are threatened by domestic dogs and hunting by humans, and habitat fragmentation and loss due to deforestation. Their main threat is fragmentation and destruction of their preferred habitat, temperate moist forests (Acosta and Lucherini, 2008). Human sentiment towards kodkods in rural areas is generally negative. Education, awareness, and stricter law enforcement are needed to improve human attitudes towards kodkods and their protection (Silva-Rodgrquez, Ortega-Solis, and Jimenez, 2001). There are laws in place to protect kodkods and other small cats from hunters, but only in some areas and enforcement is generally weak (Lucherini and Merino, 2008). Fortunately, kodkods are relatively tolerant of disturbed habitats, which is reflected in their current conservation status as vulnerable rather than critically endangered.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Indeterminate(Groombridge 1994)
They are also viewed negatively as a poultry depredator, with 81.4% of 43 families interviewed in a rural area of southern Chile considering it “damaging or very damaging”, although there was only a single recent report of a guiña killing 12 hens in a henhouse (Silva-Rodriguez et al. 2007). On Chiloe Island, two out of five radio-collared cats were killed while raiding chicken coops during the first study of this species (Sanderson et al. 2002).
It is recorded in 16 protected areas in Chile, but many are too small to support viable populations (Acosta et al. 2003). It is known from three national parks in Argentina: Lanin, Nahuel Huapi, and Los Alerces (Nowell and Jackson 1996), although densities may be low. The most important conservation measure for this species is providing connectivity between native forest patches across areas currently under management as plantation forest. It is also important, in areas such as Chiloe Island where they are considered livestock pests, to improve chicken coops and reduce conflict (J. Sanderson pers. comm.) Further studies are required on the species ecology, demographics, natural history, and threats (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Kodkods have been known to occasionally prey on domestic poultry.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
Kodkods have been hunted for their fur. However, their small body size makes them less popular among hunters (Postanowicz, 2008). In rural areas kodkod pelts are still found displayed as trophies. Kodkods may help to control rodent populations, which decreases rodent depredation on crops and rodent population outbreaks that spread disease (The World Conservation Union, 1996).
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
The kodkod (Leopardus guigna) (Spanish pronunciation: [koðˈkoð]), also called güiña, is the smallest cat in the Americas. It lives primarily in central and southern Chile and marginally in adjoining areas of Argentina. Its area of distribution is small compared to the other South-American cats. In 2002, the IUCN classified the kodkod as Vulnerable as the total effective population size may be fewer than 10,000 mature individuals, with a declining trend due to habitat and prey base loss and persecution, and no subpopulation having an effective population size larger than 1,000 mature breeding individuals.
The kodkod has a small head, large feet, and a thick tail. An adult weighs 2 to 2.5 kilograms (4.4 to 5.5 lb), with a typical length of 37 to 51 centimetres (15 to 20 in), a short 20 to 25 centimetres (7.9 to 9.8 in) tail, and a shoulder height of about 25 centimetres (9.8 in).
The coat has a base color ranging from brownish-yellow to grey-brown. The body is decorated with dark spots, with a pale underside and a ringed tail. The ears are black with a white spot, while the dark spots on the shoulders and neck almost merge to form a series of dotted streaks. Melanistic kodkods with spotted black coats are quite common.
Distribution and habitat
Kodkods are strongly associated with mixed temperate rainforests of the southern Andean and coastal ranges, particularly the Valdivian and Araucaria forests of Chile, which is characterized by the presence of bamboo in the understory. They prefer evergreen temperate rainforest habitats to deciduous temperate moist forests, sclerophyllous scrub and coniferous forests. They are tolerant of altered habitats, being found in secondary forest and shrub as well as primary forest, and on the fringes of settled and cultivated areas.
They range up to the treeline at approximately 1,900 m (6,200 ft). In Argentina, they have been recorded from moist montane forest, which has Valdivian characteristics, including a multi-layered structure with bamboo, and numerous lianas and epiphytes.
Ecology and behavior
Kodkods are equally active during the day as during the night, although they only venture into open terrain under the cover of darkness. During the day, they rest in dense vegetation in ravines, along streams with heavy cover, and in piles of dead gorse. They are excellent climbers, and easily able to climb trees more than a meter in diameter. They are terrestrial predators of birds, lizards and rodents in the ravines and forested areas, feeding on southern lapwing, austral thrush, chucao tapaculo, huet-huet, domestic geese and chicken.
Male kodkods maintain exclusive territories 1.1 to 2.5 square kilometres (0.42 to 0.97 sq mi) in size, while females occupy smaller ranges of just 0.5 to 0.7 square kilometres (0.19 to 0.27 sq mi).
The major threat to the kodkod is logging of its temperate moist forest habitat, and the spread of pine forest plantations and agriculture, particularly in central Chile. In 1997 to 1998, two out of five radio-collared kodkods were killed on Chiloe Island while raiding chicken coops.
There are two known subspecies of this cat:
- Leopardus guigna guigna - Southern Chile and Argentina
- Leopardus guigna tigrillo - Central Chile
The kodkod was formerly considered a member of the genus Oncifelis, which consisted of three small feline species native to South America. All of these species have been moved into the genus Leopardus. Along with the kodkod, the former members of Oncifelis were the colocolo and Geoffroy's cat.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 538. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Acosta, G., Lucherini, M. (2008). "Leopardus guigna". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Nowell, K., Jackson, P. (1996) Kodkod In: Wild Cats: status survey and conservation action plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland.
- Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 211–214. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
- Miller, S.D., Rottmann, J. (1976) Guia para el reconocimiento de mamiferos chilenos. [Guide to the recognition of Chilean mammals.] Editora Nacional Gabriela Mistral, Santiago (in Spanish).
- Dimitri, M. (1972) [The Andean-Patagonian forest region: general synopsis.] Colección científica del Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria 10 (in Spanish).
- Sanderson, J. G., Sunquist, M. E., Iriarte, A. W. (2002) Natural history and landscape-use of guignas (Oncifelis guigna) on Isla Grande de Chloe, Chile. Journal of Mammalogy 83 (2): 608–613.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oncifelis guigna.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Oncifelis guigna|
- Species portrait Leopardus guigna; IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group
- The Kodkod at Big Cats Online
- The Spatial Ecology of the Güiña in Southern Chile
- BBC: Kodkod, Chilean cat
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