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Is the Ocelot Still Endangered?

Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
The ocelot is a wild cat species that was said to be declining in population. This story clears the air on whether this feline is still endangered or not.

Conservation Status

Due to the efforts undertaken world over to preserve the Ocelot, it has now been shifted under the 'Least Concern' category according to the 2008 IUCN Red List of endangered species. This is, indeed, good news for this beautiful wild cat.
The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is a subject of common interest among animal lovers of the world, not because of its magnificent fur color or unique shape, but for its declining population. If you refer to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list, you will come across this species.
According to the IUCN, recently done ecological studies are proof enough that this animal ranks first in abundance among felines. It is found in the lowland Neotropics, and the number of this species is estimated to be high enough to maintain long-term viable populations in the Amazon basin. As a result, it falls under the Least Concern category of the IUCN.

Endangerment of the Ocelot

✦ Previously, the number of ocelots in the wild had been reduced to such an extent that it was included in the vulnerable species.
In short, this medium-sized cat was on the verge of extinction in 2006, and scientists were of the opinion that it will become extinct in the near future unless assisted by human protection. Till today, it was listed as endangered in nearly all its native regions including Texas, Arizona, South America, and Central America.
As with any other type of endangered animal or threatened animal species, the main reason for its decreasing population even today is to do with loss of habitat and fragmentation of the same.
✦ The adult ocelot rears its young ones in thick forests, and the destruction of the same is responsible for reducing its population. Human intervention in terms of land encroachment for agriculture and developmental projects is one unavoidable cause.
Another reason for its endangerment is that it is hunted on a large scale for its pelt. Its spotted fur is highly priced for use in clothing apparel. For making a single coat, about 20 ocelots are sacrificed.
✦ Other equally important factors that justify why the ocelot was endangered until recently was a small litter size (1-4 kittens per litter), high mortality rate of young ones, and slow growth rate.
Also, it was observed that this wild cat has the longest gestation period (79-85 days) of all the cat species. The kittens tend to live with their mother for 2 years. To save this animal from becoming extinct, it has been granted legal protection.
Several laws are being passed to prevent illegal import, export, trading, acquiring, and purchasing of this wild cat.
✦ This animal is known to tolerate disturbances in its habitat and perseveres close to human settlements in wooded patches. Even though fur trade was stopped decades ago, it continues to occur illegally. Presently, major threats include loss of habitat, illegal trade of pets and pelts, and vindictive killing due to ravage of poultry.

Number of Ocelots Left in the World

✦ Even though environmental conservationists are sure about the endangerment status of this animal, no organization has reliable information about its actual population. In fact, different data suggest varied numbers in the wild. However, one thing is for sure: the numbers of this wild cat fall between 80-120 in Texas. So, you can expect a low population rate in other native regions.
On the brighter side, there are also wildlife conservation reports that reveal a slow population growth of this cat in recent years.
✦ As a part of the conservatory approaches, many ranchers have taken up prompt steps for caring for this animal. Its average lifespan is 7-10 years in the natural habitat, while it can live for as long as 20 years in captivity under controlled conditions.

Few Interesting Facts

✦ This jaguar-like mammal is known by different names in different parts of the world. However, some of the commonly known names are painted leopard and tigrillo.
✦ It has teeth for biting and tearing food, but not for chewing it. Thus, it swallows whole chunks of meat.
✦ It is not afraid of water and is a very good swimmer. Cat species are otherwise known to be afraid of water.
✦ Its tongue has a raspy texture; hence, it can lick all the meat off the bones of its prey.
✦ It can adapt to human habitat quite easily.
✦ It has claws that can retract.
✦ Males are called 'Torn', while females are called 'Queen'.