Wednesday, November 22, 2006
PORTLAND – The debut of the Oregon Zoo’s endangered ocelot kitten is happening sooner than expected. The baby boy will make his first public appearance in mid-December instead of January. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s still nameless.
Keepers have chosen their three favorite names and are now seeking the public’s help in making the final decision. The three names they have chosen for the online vote are (drum roll, please):
Rio (meaning river or laugh in Spanish or Portuguese).
Mo (short for monkey, because the kitten lives in the zoo’s Primate Building, which has been expanded to include species in South America and the Amazon).
Bonito ( meaning beautiful or pretty in Spanish).
To cast your vote for your favorite name, please go to http://www.oregonzoo.org/Voter/vote_form.cfm. All votes must be submitted by Monday, Dec. 18.
The ocelot was born Sept. 9 and continues to be nurtured by his mother, Alice. She and her mate, Ralph, came to the zoo on April 22.
Alice and Ralph were born in 1993 at zoos located in S?Paulo, Brazil. Ralph made his debut in August and Alice stayed in an off-exhibit holding space specially designed for expectant mothers. When the baby was born, Alice kept him out of sight in her birthing den.
“Mom continues to be very protective of her baby,” said Tony Vecchio, zoo director. “The little guy is becoming bolder every day. I know our visitors will absolutely love seeing him play with his mother. He’s an absolute charmer. His antics will be great fun to watch.”
Ralph, Alice and the kitten belong to the southern Brazilian species, Leopardus pardalis mitis, which inhabits the tropical and subtropical forests of southern Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
Since 2002, the Oregon Zoo has been working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Brazilian Ocelot Consortium and the government of Brazil to play a role in the ocelot’s survival. It was determined several years ago that North American zoos’ ocelot population should be replaced by a genetically defined subspecies — the Brazilian ocelot. The Oregon Zoo is one of 10 U.S. zoos involved with the consortium.
For centuries, ocelots have been hunted for their fur. During the 1960s and ’70s, more than 200,000 of the cats were taken each year. Ocelots were placed on the endangered species list in 1982. It is now illegal to hunt them in the United States. Ocelots are normally associated with South America, but can also be found in Texas and Arizona.
Ocelots weigh approximately 20 pounds and are known to climb trees and even swim well. However, they spend most of their time hunting on the ground.
“Our new baby is a charismatic ambassador for his species,” said Vecchio. “He’s educating people about the importance of saving these rare cats — and their ever-shrinking habitats.”
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Oregon silverspot butterflies, western pond turtles and Kincaid’s lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors are encouraged to ride MAX or take TriMet bus No. 63 to the Oregon Zoo. Visitors who take the bus or MAX receive 50 cents off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.
General admission is $9.50 (12-64), seniors $8 (65+), children $6.50 (3-11), and infants 2 and under are free. A parking fee of $1 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.