CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas State Aquarium announced two new additions, sister ocelots named Milla and Leelo!
The sisters were brought to the Aquarium in march from ABQ BioPark in Albuquerque, New Mexico as part of the Texas Ocelots Species Survival Plan.
Since their arrival, the ocelots have been acclimating to their new home, and will be making their public debut this summer, Aquarium officials said.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are one of the most elusive and solitary animals in North America, Aquarium officials said. which makes them difficult to track and study.
Conservationists estimate that, in the United States, only 50 to 80 ocelots remain in the wild in two tiny population pockets in deep South Texas. 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 Texas State Aquarium’s two female ocelots, Milla and Leelo, will participate in the Texas Ocelots Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is cooperatively managed by accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
“One of the core roles of 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, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Texas State Aquarium, said.
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 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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