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Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Leopardus
Species: L. wiedii
Binomial name
Leopardus wiedii
(Schinz, 1821)
Margay range map
  • Felis wiedii

The Margay (Leopardus wiedii) is a spotted cat native to Central and South America. Named for Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied,[3] it is a solitary and nocturnal animal that prefers remote sections of the rainforest. Although it was once believed to be vulnerable to extinction, the IUCN now lists it as "Near Threatened".[2] It roams the rainforests from Mexico to Argentina.


Physical characteristics

Maya, a Margay at an animal shelter in Sámara, Costa Rica

The Margay can weigh about 2 to 9 kg (6.6–20 lbs), have a body length of 45 to 80 cm (18 to 32 in) and a tail length of 33 to 51 cm (13 to 20 in). It is very similar to the larger Ocelot, although the head is a bit shorter, the tail and legs are longer, and the spotted pattern on the tail is different. Most notably the Margay is a much more skillful climber than its relative, and it is sometimes called the Tree Ocelot because of this skill. Whereas the Ocelot mostly pursues prey on the ground, the Margay may spend its entire life in the trees, leaping after and chasing birds and monkeys through the treetops. Indeed, it is one of only two cat species with the ankle flexibility necessary to climb head-first down trees (the other being the Clouded Leopard). Its ankles can turn up to 180 degrees,[4] it can grasp branches equally well with its fore and hind paws, and it is able to jump considerable distances. The Margay has been observed to hang from branches with only one foot. The Margay is considered to be the true jungle cat, because it spends almost its entire life in trees.


Margay in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Because the Margay is naturally rare in its environment, most of its dietary studies were based on stomach contents and fecal analysis. This cat eats small mammals (sometimes monkeys), birds, eggs, lizards and tree frogs.[5] It may also eat grass and other vegetation, most likely to help digestion. A recent report about a Margay chasing squirrels in its natural environment confirmed that the Margay is able to hunt its prey entirely in trees.[6]


These are the currently recognized subspecies:[1]


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. C. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 539–540. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.  
  2. ^ a b Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. (2008). Leopardus wiedii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 06 March 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is near threatened
  3. ^ "Leopardus wiedii, common name: margay". Retrieved 2007-04-15.  
  4. ^ Margay
  5. ^ Wang, E. (2002). "Diets of Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), Margays (L. wiedii), and Oncillas (L. tigrinus) in the Atlantic Rainforest in Southeast Brazil". Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 37 (3): 207–212. doi:10.1076/snfe. Retrieved 2007-06-15.  
  6. ^ Solórzano-filho, J.A. (2006). "Mobbing of Leopardus wiedii while hunting by a group of Sciurus ingrami in an Araucaria forest of Southeast Brazil". Mammalia 2006: 156–157. doi:10.1515/MAMM.2006.031.  

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