Corpus Christi, TX - The Texas State Aquarium proudly welcomes two young, sister ocelots named Milla and Leeloo, who arrived from the ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, New Mexico in late March 2021 as part of the ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP). Since their arrival, the ocelots have been acclimating to their new home. They will be making their public debut this summer.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ocelots are one of the most elusive and solitary animals in North America. This makes them difficult to track and study, but conservationists estimate that, in the United States, only 50 to 80 ocelots remain in the wild. Ocelots have been pushed into two tiny population pockets in deep South Texas, creating isolated gene pools. The surviving U.S. ocelot populations primarily live on large, private ranches in the south Texas brush country. As ocelot numbers continue to decline so does the genetic diversity necessary to maintain healthy, wild breeding populations.
The ocelots at Texas State Aquarium will participate in the ocelot SSP, which is cooperatively managed by accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
“One of the core roles the Aquarium’s new ocelot exhibit will be to educate our visitors about the Texas scrub brush ecosystem and important efforts underway to help preserve ocelots and their habitat. The main threat to ocelots is habitat destruction and fragmentation. Ocelots need large areas of dense brush to survive. As rural lands are developed, ocelot habitat disappears.” –Jesse Gilbert, Texas State Aquarium
The Aquarium’s exhibits department has been working with Texas A&M University Kingsville’s range management team to design and equip the ocelots’ new home. They have designed a Texas brush country habitat and identified a horticulture plan to ensure the ocelots will be comfortable.
The Aquarium would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Clay Hilton and the Cesar Kleberg Research Institute at Texas A&M University Kingsville for their dedication to preserving this unique species and helping make this important conservation effort a reality.
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