On January 14th, the Sao Paulo Zoo in Brazil welcomed a new resident, a male baby Oncilla named Poli. (It's pronounced AWN-sill-uh, by the way.) The cub’s mother, Luiza, is one of the last melanistic Oncilla remaining in captivity today. Melanism is a genetic mutation causing dark pigmentation, so rather than being spotted, Luiza’s coat is entirely black. Despite the mother’s mutation, Poli was born with the more common spotted fur pattern.
Soon after the birth, Luiza rejected her baby, so Poli was bottle-fed by zoo staff. Now at four and a half months old, Poli is already fully weaned, healthy, and continues to grow strong. (These photos were taken on March 15th and May 21st).
See and learn more after the fold!
The Oncilla, also known as the ‘little spotted cat’, is classified as vulnerable by IUCN. Oncilla are generally nocturnal and live in a wide range of environments from scrublands to cloud forests from Costa Rica to southern Brazil and southeast Argentina. As adults, these small cats measure about 40 to 50 centimeters and weigh 1.75 to 3.5 kilograms (slightly less than an average domestic cat). Once heavily exploited for fur, this species is now protected in some, but not all, countries throughout its range. They are at risk due to deforestation as well as hunting and poaching. Though widespread, their populations are fairly small and isolated from each other.