El Paso And Cincinnati Zoos Welcome 3 Endangered Ocelot Kittens Born After Using Frozen Semen

Most wild felid species are classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered due to poaching and habitat loss. Any directed action taken by humans to enhance animal reproduction results in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) development. These technologies have been included in programs for the conservation of endangered species. Therefore, ART provide a new approach in the safeguard programs of felid biodiversity. Currently, ART mainly include Artificial Insemination; taking sperm from a male and placing it to the reproductive system of female, is one tool in the scientist’s toolkit to save the endangered species of animals. Recently, this has been done successfully and three adorable ocelot kittens were welcomed into this world following the procedure of artificial insemination.

Ocelots are small, American wild cats about twice the size of housecats. Their coats have distinctive markings in a wide variety of patterns. Each ocelot’s pattern is unique, with dark spots on an orange, tan and white coat.  Ocelots are also sometimes called painted leopards because of their markings and dwarf leopards  because of their markings and their size. However, ocelots are only distantly related to true leopards or tigers.

The three tiny ocelot fur-balls were born via artificial insemination at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio this March, while the first images of the kittens were released this week.

The litter of kittens are all descendants of the male ocelot that is considered to be the most genetically valuable in any North American zoo. Jack, a 16-year-old ocelot, is living at the Houston zoo but was taken from Brazil in 2006 to the Cleveland Zoo where his semen was then collected and frozen.

Five ocelot kittens were born between March 1st and 2nd. However, only three of them survived and are currently being raised at zoological facilities. “These births are highly significant because this is the first time in 24 years that AI with frozen semen has been successful in ocelots. Because it was successful, it opens up the possibility for other zoos to increase genetic diversity using the same procedure,” said Zoo Area Supervisor of the El Paso Zoo, Amanda Stansbury.

Ocelots are found in United States, Mexico, Central America and South America in every country except Chile. They have adapted to many different environments, including thorn scrubs, coastal marshes, mangrove forests, savanna grasslands and tropical and subtropical forests. Captive breeding techniques like artificial insemination are now playing a major role in helping to conserve the diversity of small cats within zoos and hopefully in the future, in the wild too.

These solidary wild cats are nocturnal, which means they are active during the night and sleep during the day. They sleep in trees and bushes. Ocelots are territorial. Ocelots are not roaring cats; instead they chuckle when excited and may mutter to one another, according to the San Diego Zoo. The main threats to the ocelot survival is the destruction of their habitat due to human activity and increasing population, loss of prey base and cover, illegal fur trade, retaliatory killing due to depredation of livestock and killed by traffic.