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Rare ocelot kitten born at Dallas Zoo
Aug 15, 2013

Rare ocelot kitten born at Dallas Zoo
Birth of endangered Texas predator is a success for Species Survival Plan


A rare ocelot kitten has been born at the Dallas Zoo to first-time parents whose pairing was a goal of the national program trusted with ensuring the survival of this unique predator cat species.

The healthy female kitten is named Lindy, which means “pretty” in several languages. Lindy is thriving under the nurturing of her mother, Milagre. She is the third ocelot kitten born at the Dallas Zoo, and the first since 2001. The other was born in 1956.

“The birth of this kitten is reason to celebrate,” said Lynn Kramer, D.V.M., vice president of animal operations and welfare at the Dallas Zoo. “Ocelots, which are such a rich part of the natural history of Texas, face severe threats across the state. Our work with the Species Survival Plan ensures that Texans will continue to be able to appreciate this remarkable animal.”

Only a few ocelot kittens are born in U.S. zoos each year. Lindy’s mother, Milagre, age 4, came to Dallas from Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, while the kitten’s father, Joaquin, age 5, came from the Oklahoma City Zoological Park. Both were brought to the Dallas Zoo in April 2011 on the recommendation of the Ocelot Species Survival Plan, with hopes that they would reproduce.

Ocelot kittens typically weigh less than half a pound when born. At 4 weeks old, Lindy weighed 2 pounds and is getting more energetic each day. Her deep blue eyes eventually will change to brown, while her spots will remain unique to her.

The kitten has been in seclusion with her mother since she was born June 26. Ocelot kittens don’t begin exploring their surroundings or going on outings with their mother until they’re four to six weeks old, so Lindy is expected to begin venturing out into the ocelot habitat any day now. That’s where the public can visit her and she can meet her neighbors – dad Joaquin and Rufus, a bobcat – for the first time. She’s most likely to be spotted during the morning or late afternoon hours.

“We’re giving this kitten everything she needs to thrive,” said Todd Bowsher, director of animal operations at the Zoo. “She’s quite energetic and we have every reason to believe she’ll continue to do well.”

 Since ocelots are very secretive, zookeepers set up a private den box in which Milagre could give birth. Staff has monitored the birth and interactions between Milagre and her kitten via video camera. The zoo even moved the performance stage for its Safari Nights music concerts away from the ocelot habitat this summer after the kitten was born to avoid disturbing her. And zookeepers carefully baby-proofed the habitat, covering tree stumps so she can’t climb too high and adding mesh to small openings.

“We are thrilled with how well Milagre has been caring for her kitten, especially since it’s her first,” said Lora Salkeld, mammal supervisor at the zoo. “This birth is a big step for the survival of these incredible cats.”

Ocelots are small, spotted, secretive cats that are mostly nocturnal. The ocelot is one of the top predators in Texas, preying on small mammals, lizards, amphibians, fish, and birds. Full-grown female ocelots weigh about 20 pounds, while males can reach more than 30 pounds.

They prefer to live in thick vegetation, and loss of habitat is one of their main threats. Researchers estimate that only about 50 remain in the wild across the state.

Once hunted for their beautiful pelts, Texas ocelot numbers also are dwindling today because of inbreeding and because their habitats have been bisected by highways, where they can be killed by traffic.

The Ocelot Species Survival Plan is a conservation and breeding program of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, responsible for managing efforts to help ensure survival of the endangered species. As a member of the SSP, the Dallas Zoo works with other zoological parks to ensure that the ocelot gene pool remains healthy and genetically sound.

Other species of ocelots range from southern Texas and Arizona down through Central and South America, as far as southern Brazil.


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