In the backup area behind the new ocelot exhibit at the Texas Zoo, a baby ocelot and its mother are getting to know each other.
The Texas Zoo announced Saturday that the ocelot kitten was born at the zoo Jan. 14.
The cub is the offspring of Bonnie and Obidaiah – two ocelots at the Texas Zoo that are also the parents of Laguna, a zoo ambassador for ocelot conservation who celebrated her 1st birthday Saturday.
Zoo officials do not yet know the gender of the baby because they want to give it as much time as possible with Bonnie, said Jay Jensen, curator of wildlife care at The Texas Zoo.
“We’re really big believers in letting Mom do the work,” Jensen said. “We’re gonna let her be with mom as long as possible, so when we find out (the gender), we will let everyone know and name (the new ocelot).”
The ocelot is a wild cat species native to South America and the lower Rio Grande Valley. It has been on the endangered species list since the 1980s.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Jensen said about the new kitten. “This species is critically endangered; there are fewer than 80 ocelots in the United States, and they’re all right here in South Texas.”
Jensen said ocelots have a life expectancy of 20 years, though the kitten’s father, Obidaiah, is 21 years old.
“In eleven months, he sired two different babies, so I’d say he’s doing pretty well for an old man,” Jensen said.
The Texas Zoo has five ocelots, but the majority of the species lives in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Jensen said.
The species’ population has dwindled because of habitat loss, pollution, natural selection and hunters. Ocelots are aquatic cats that fish in rivers and shallow water, which makes those that live in South Texas vulnerable to natural disasters.
“One disaster, one hurricane, could take out the whole population,” Jensen said. “The goal is to increase the species’ survival so that they could possibly make a re-introduction (into the wild).”