El Paso And Cincinnati Zoos Welcome 3 Endangered Ocelot Kittens Born After Using Frozen Semen

Zoologists and the general public all over the globe are extremely worried over the increasing number of endangered species of animals. There is data that shows a correlation between human population and threatened and endangered species, suggesting that the ever-increasing human population is harmful to the whole ecosystem. In addition to this, the harmful effects of human activity are also pushing animals out of their natural habitats. One of the ways that scientists are trying to prevent some species going extinct is by applying captive breeding. Recently, this has been done successfully and three impossibly adorable ocelot kittens were welcomed into this world following the procedure of artificial insemination (AI) using frozen semen.

More info: Cincinnati Zoo | El Paso Zoo

Image credits: Cincinnati Zoo

The trio of tiny ocelot fur-balls was born via artificial insemination at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio this March, while the first images of the kittens were released this week. In the wild, there are only a few dozen ocelots but scientists are hoping that using modern technology and artificial insemination could help preserve many endangered species.

Image credits: El Paso Zoo

The litter of kittens are all descendants of the male ocelot that is considered to be the most genetically valuable in any North American zoo. Jack, a 16-year-old ocelot, is living at the Houston zoo but was taken from Brazil in 2006 to the Cleveland Zoo where his semen was then collected and frozen.

Image credits: El Paso Zoo

A total of five ocelot kittens were born between March 1st and 2nd. However, only three of them survived and are currently being raised by their respective mothers (Lindy and Arieta) at zoological facilities. “These births are highly significant because this is the first time in 24 years that AI with frozen semen has been successful in ocelots. Because it was successful, it opens up the possibility for other zoos to increase genetic diversity using the same procedure,” said Zoo Area Supervisor of the El Paso Zoo, Amanda Stansbury.

Image credits: Cincinnati Zoo

Only a tiny population of 60 to 80 wild ocelots are still living in South Texas – these felines have been included on the U.S. endangered species list for more than 40 years now. Population projections show that several small cat species, ocelot included, will experience a substantial reduction of genetic diversity in zoos over the next 50 years. Captive breeding techniques like artificial insemination are now playing a major role in helping to conserve the diversity of small cats within zoos and hopefully in the near future, in the wild as well.

Image credits: El Paso Zoo

The ocelot is a small wild cat native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central and South America. The main threat to the ocelot survival is the destruction of their habitat due to human activity (a lot of ocelots die in car accidents) and increasing population. In addition to this, these small cats are sought after by poachers for illegal trade in body parts and fur.

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