Pete Villarreal

Pete Villarreal

When one visits a zoo, it is only natural to expect a big cat collection.

Here at the Texas Zoo, our big cat collection includes a pair of jaguars (Panthera onca), a pair of bobcats (Lynx rufus) and a family of ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), including Clyde, Laguna, Bonnie and Obadiah.

Yet another cat that is sometimes on display in our WEB building is our cub, Nova, a beautiful Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). Nova, as some guests might already have experienced, is one of our ambassador animals at the zoo. However, in recent months, she has also helped in conservation research.

The development of the research department at the Texas Zoo began somewhat early this year. Zoo staff began collecting data on Nova with the use of a pet collar, recording heartbeat and respiratory rates.

Even more recently, Nova has become a model organism for the study of felid ecophysiology with the use of bio-logging technology. To date, around 30 trials have been collected on Nova, from guest interaction sessions to play sessions with wildlife care staff. This tag records every movement made by the animal wearing the technology, allowing us to decipher the secrets of cat behavior. More so, this information may be used to allow wildlife care staff to offer animals better welfare management, making this technology extremely important for animals both in the wild and in captivity.

The work done with Nova will be presented later this year at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association’s annual conference in New Orleans. The conference will gather thousands of wildlife trainers, biologists and zookeepers from around the world to display their work.

The Texas Zoo is proud to be a part of this year’s conference, take the precious work done at our park and present it in front of thousands of wildlife professionals from around the globe.

Pedro Villarreal is the wildlife care specialist supervisor of the The Texas Zoo. The Texas Zoo is in Riverside Park, 110 Memorial Drive. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day. For more information, call 361-573-7681 or visit

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