12:24 PM EDT on Thursday, June 7, 2007
Louisville Zoo Press Release
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Zoo has two new cats — endangered Brazilian ocelots, to be exact.
Brazilian ocelots, a subspecies of ocelots (there are eight), are native to Brazil and about three times the size of a housecat. They are one of the smallest felines found in the tropical rainforest.
“They are very hard to find and rarely seen,” Louisville Zoo General Curator Steve Wing said, “because they are very shy and blend in well with their surroundings.”
Ocelots are known for their beautiful fur coats, which are marked with irregular-shaped dark areas that run in parallel chains along the body. During the 1960s and 70s the ocelot fur was heavily sought after. But today, most hunting has ceased. However, with continual habitat loss paired with long gestation periods and small litter size, ocelots are still trying to recover from low populations. The have been designated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) as a Species Survival Plan (SSP) species.
“We want these Brazilian ocelots to be ambassadors for conservation,” Wing said. “We want people in Louisville and Kentucky to see this fascinating species and be moved to help preserve it.”
The two Brazilian ocelots came from Greenville Zoo in Greenville, S.C. The male, Itirapua (“Itty” for short), is 13 years old and weighs 31 pounds. The female, Miguela, is 5 years old and weighs close to 20 pounds.
Upon receiving the ocelots, the AZA also gave the Louisville Zoo a breeding recommendation for the pair to help populate the species.
With the arrival of the ocelots, some cats have been “trading spaces.”
The ocelots are housed in the old lynx exhibit. Seventeen-year-old Woody the lynx will retire at the Zoo off exhibit.
Pumas Emmet and Sable moved to the jaguar exhibit and jaguar Maya moved to the puma exhibit, allowing “Cats of the Americas” (jaguar and ocelot) to be closer together.