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Photo of Rare, Mysterious Cat Wins Competition

Camera trap photo of an oncilla, a rare cat species
This rare, mysterious cat species, called an oncilla, was photographed by a camera trap in Bolivia's Madidi National Park in July 2012. (Image credit: Guido Ayala, Maria Viscarra, and Robert Wallace/WCS)

A rarely seen Bolivian wild cat species was photographed by a camera trap in one of the country's national park, the first time it has been spotted there.

The photo of the cat, called an oncilla, won a category of a camera trap competition run by the magazine BBC Wildlife.

The oncilla, about the size of a house cat, is found throughout the Amazon and the tropical Andes. The cat is rarely spotted, and little is known about its life history, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), whose researchers took the photo as part of a camera trap survey in the area in July 2012.

The survey captured photos of jaguars and other wildlife in Madidi, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The 7,335-square-mile (19,000 square kilometers) park hosts 11 percent of the world's birds, more than 200 mammal species, almost 300 fish species and 12,000 varieties of plants. This wide array of species is found in an equally diverse set of ecosystems, from lowland tropical forests to the peaks of the High Andes.

With this evidence that the oncilla dwells in Madidi, the number of confirmed cat species in the park now stands at six, with two more waiting to be confirmed, the WCS said in a statement.

WCS researchers Guido Ayala, Maria Viscarra and Robert Wallace submitted the photo in the New Discoveries category of the BBC Wildlife competition. The winning entry received £1,000 (approximately $1,500), courtesy of Paramo Directional Clothing Systems and the World Land Trust. The photo is featured in the December issue of the magazine.

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Live Science Staff
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