Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Mirror 10

29th June 2018

Following on from the mirror image stimulation study in the lower Peruvian Amazon concentrating on competitor recognition with Neotropical cats, Untamed Photography has taken a mirror into the region Las Piedres River situated near a well used tree fall located over a large stream. Interns and coordinator chose this location because previous camera traps found that there were frequent cat sightings on this log.

On arrival at the forest research station our first task was to set the mirror up and activate the camera trap, our coordinator Mark Fernley had seen Puma tracks at the site that gave us hope for big cat sightings as well as interaction with the mirror. After two weeks we got many viewings on the camera trap including Jaguar (Leopardus pardalis) and Puma (Panthera concolor). However for this blog we are focusing specifically on the (L.pardalis) day footage due to the rarity of day activity being recorded.



At approximately 9:45 on the 9th of June in 2018, an ocelot (L.pardalis) was spotted on the camera trap we set up in the region of the Las Piedres River. Interestingly as seen on the camera trap as 13°C, the Ocelot was recorded during a cold spell of weather from the south of Argentina that the local people call a friaje. This is unusual because most mammals are not active at this time due to them being adapted to being in a warm climate.

At 9:45 our Ocelot activates the Bushnel camera trap sensor. As the (L.pardalis) approaches the mirror from the trail towards the stream, he turns to the rights facing the mirror, physically looking at the mirror but not at his own reflection here we can assume that he only sees the vegetation reflection in the mirror. After looking at the universal Cat Tail Postures and codes database it shows that when (L.pardalis) looks at the mirror for the first time his temperament is neither aggressive nor defensive (A0B0) due to tail being in a relaxed position.

Four seconds after the head of (L.pardalis) turns to the right, he notices his own reflection or in this case his competitive recognition. Immediately the tail submerges between his legs (A2B0), then immediately the hind legs erect causing the back to arch upwards (A3B0). We believe (L.pardalis) does this to make itself look bigger to so called competitor that is its reflection. This could be due to it being a solitary individual and it not having the intelligence or previous experience of interacting without vocal calling with other members of the same species. Here we find it interesting to see how solitary cats interact with other solitary cats.

As (L.pardalis) walks past the mirror towards the stream it only looks at the mirror for a total of three times each time only lasting one second. This gives the impression that even though (L.pardalis) is curious about the competitor (L.pardalis) still does not feel completely comfortable and still remains in a defensive posture. At second thirteen (L.pardalis) comes to a complete stop with its head turning straight, along with the left ear. (L.pardalis) remains stationary for exactly two seconds. Immediately after the head turns to look back showing interest towards th reflection. Interestingly it does not return to the mirror as previous (Panthera onca’s) did in previous mirrors in Tambopata.

The last interesting action of (L.pardalis) is the scent action where we get an indication of opposition towards the reflection suggesting that (L.pardalis) is marking its territory, providing a warning to the reflection and any other (L.pardalis) in the area that it is its territory.

Comparing the previous footage of the mirror study with (P.onca) located in Tambopata, Madre de Dios, Peru. It is interesting to see how different small cats such as (L.pardalis) react to their competitor/reflection, whilst larger cats like (P.onca) are more interactive physically and more aggressively and sociably vocal with the competitor in the mirror.

It was very exciting to record our first cat on the mirror that was set up by us on our first day of work here. We are also interested to find out what else might walk past.

Written by Mark Fernley and Cameron Forshaw


Story written by Mark Fernley