'Frisky' ocelot couple brings rare baby to the Oregon Zoo
An endangered South American ocelot named Alice has given birth to a healthy baby boy in captivity, the Oregon Zoo announced Thursday.
The kitten was born Sept. 9 and has been with its mother, out of sight of most zoo staffers, until recently.
"Mom is doing her job and is being protective of her baby," said zoo director Tony Vecchio in a news release. "The kitten is now becoming inquisitive and is venturing out a little more. I know our visitors will be anxious to see him in January."
The newborn, its mother and its father, Ralph, are members of a Brazilian species of ocelot called Leopardus pardalis mitis, which lives in the tropical and subtropical forests of southern Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
Ocelots have been listed as endangered species since 1982, and the Oregon Zoo is one of 10 U.S. zoos involved in a program to revive the cats' population by breeding Brazilian ocelots in captivity.
"Our new baby will be a charismatic ambassador for his species," Vecchio said. "He'll help educate people about the importance of saving these rare cats and their ever-shrinking habitats."
Ocelots weigh about 20 pounds and can climb trees and even swim well, but they spend most of their time hunting on the ground, zoo officials said.
Alice and Ralph came to Portland from São Paulo, Brazil, on April 22, and Alice's condition caught zoo veterinarians and keepers off-guard, they said.
"She surprised us when we discovered she was pregnant," said Gilbert Gomez, the zoo's assistant curator. "When ocelots move to a new home, sometimes they'll get a little frisky. But we didn't witness any amorous behavior and Alice and Ralph are getting up there in age, so we were taken back a bit by it."
Zoo vets get first glimpse of ocelot kitten - www.oregonzoo.org/Video_and_Audio_Clips/OcelotKitten.htm
Oregon Zoo - www.oregonzoo.com
Endangered species list - www.iucnredlist.org