WESLACO, Texas - Many work year-round to protect the endangered Ocelot. But only a few get to witness the cats in their native habitat. An ambassador for the species visits the Rio Grande Valley just in time for Ocelot Conservation Day.
Sihl, an Ocelot Ambassador, traveled over 1400 miles to get to the Rio Grande Valley. Ocelots are an endangered species. Even though there are Ocelots in South Texas, this Ocelot was brought here to help spread awareness.
Lauren Kimbro a cat ambassador/trainer for the Cincinnati Zoo says, “Sihl is an amazing animal. She’s 16 years old and she was hand raised at the Cincinnati zoo to be a program ocelot.”
Normally you’d see an ocelot in the wild. This Ocelot visited Payne Auto Group. Showings like these give ocelot experts get the chance to meet with the public.
“It’s like having a big cat inside a small cats body,” says Kimbro, “So they can be a little more ferocious and everything like that compared to a house cat. But if you were to see them in the wild they would see you and they would run away from you.”
Ocelots primarily live and enjoy areas with thick brush. Unlike different types of cats, the ocelot has a slow reproduction rate.
Hilary Swarts a wildlife biologists for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services says, “in the Rio Grande Valley we estimate that there are 80 or fewer ocelots here… We have 50 individuals that we know their coat pattern is unique it’s like a human fingerprint. So each one is different.”
Ocelots face many dangers. Their biggest threat: the roads.
“I would say the most important thing that the public can be doing is doing driving carefully, says Swarts. “Wildlife can zip out on the road at a moment’s notice. Vehicle mortalities are the greatest source of death for Ocelots.”
Ocelots crossing are being installed in highway 100 to reduce road mortality. The wild cats can be found only in Texas and Arizona.