Ocelot Website Content
Economic Reasons for Endangerment:
Sadly, many individuals do not respect Ocelots for the beautiful and majestic wild animals that they are. Instead, they strictly view them on what possible economic value they could have. Ocelot populations across North and South America have been severely effected by human economic actions.
Demand for fur coats exploded in the early 1960’s, cats with spotted coats were especially of interest and the Ocelot’s numbers quickly began to dwindle. A coat made completely out of ocelot fur could sell for a value equivalent to 40,000 American dollars in Western Germany. This trend lasted all the way until the mid 1980’s. Thankfully these actions became out of taste and the fashion style evaporated. Despite the fact that this activity has come to almost a complete halt, the toll it took on the ocelot’s population is still very noticeable. Not only did this negatively effect the population of the Ocelot, but also greatly reduced the species overall genetic diversity (Leopardus pardalis, 2012).
A second disturbing economic interest that affects the ocelot is people’s interest in them as exotic pets. An individual Ocelot can be sold for 800 American dollars. Although this exchange is illegal it can be easily done through the black market. Upon the Ocelot’s arrival in America owners are commonly unprepared. They are uneducated on its diet and cannot sufficiently replicate its natural habitat. Owners almost always end up selling their ocelot to zoos or animal sanctuaries where the animal is usually forced to live in captivity for the rest of its life (MacDonald, 2010).
Due to humans expanding residences and farms into Ocelot habitats, Ocelots are beginning to eat people’s chickens and are being perceived as monsters and killing machines. This often results in them being shot and killed in acts of retaliation and fear by farmers and residents.
Thanks to the lack of common knowledge about Ocelots they have become victims of human activity. The majority of people do not recognize the benefits an Ocelot can provide for ecosystems and human society.
Within America, the Ocelot primarily resides in an area that covers southeastern Arizona and southwestern Texas. Their main source of food in these regions are small rodents. This includes mice and rats, animals that are pests to agriculture in this area. Without the presence of Ocelots, these rats and mice would quickly turn into major pests. This in turn would force farmers to spend more time and money on the eradication of these rodents. It could also force them to use hazardous and environmentally degrading methods such as pesticides to get rid of the rodents. The Ocelots also hunt an animal named the Agouti. Agouti’s are also rodents, however, they are much larger than your everyday rat, they eat and bury the seeds of trees in forests. Without the Ocelots completing their predatory relationship with these rodents many trees could be lost, a trend that has already begun. Any type of tree loss is bad and the Ocelot can help prevent it (Kays, 2006). The miniscule amount of money that is spent protecting the beautiful Ocelot does not even come close to the amount saved by their natural predatory actions in nature.
Laws and Actions
The Ocelot was put on the endangered species list in 1972 because of its terrible situation. Since then, it has began to make a comeback. Even though the Ocelot is still the rarest cat in North America it is found on the least concern list. Much of the reason for this comeback is because of the laws and acts passed to protect it (Ocelots: America’s Rarest Cats, 2011).
Arguably, the most vital move in Ocelot protection occurred at the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It made all trade of Ocelots and their byproducts illegal because of their endangered classification. This dramatically slowed down the rate of Ocelot trade at a crucial time when the value of their byproducts was at its highest in history (Leopardus pardalis, 2012).
Despite the fact that it was passed in 1900, the Lacey Act has been effective in making people think twice about wrongfully purchasing any form of Ocelot product. This act states that if you own any illegally obtained life form you may be prosecuted by the government (MacDonald, 2010).
Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Environmental Defense service signed a Safe Harbour Agreement in honor of the Ocelot (Mays, 2010). The main goal of this agreement is to encourage private landowners to make their properties more inviting for this endangered cat. This action has already resulted in 2,500 more acres of habitat for the majestic ocelots (Merchant, 2012).
What Can You Do?
The Ocelot is not just an elegant and graceful animal but it also serves a vital role in its ecosystem. We know that if we give it just a little bit of help now, the Ocelot can thrive and help us a lot more in the immediate future. Recently steps of progress have been made in restoring the Ocelot to what it once was, but more must be done. You may not know it, but you can have a huge role in creating a better Ocelot tomorrow. You can help by donating to a variety of charities. Including the Environmental Defense Fund, an organization that is currently running a green project to bring back Ocelot populations in southern Texas. You can donate to and find information about this great cause at http://www.edf.org/. You can also donate to protect the ocelots in Texas at http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/texas/newsroom/texas-by-nature-ocelots.xml through the Nature Conservancy organization.
Information is power! Spread the word about what is happening to ocelots. The average person does not know about their situation, you can encourage them to make a difference.
Kays, Roland (2006) Ocelot & Agouti, retrieved December 7, 2012, from the National Science Foundation website: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/animals/ocelot_agouti.jsp
Leopardus pardalis ocelot. (2012) Retrieved November 13, 2012 from University of Michigan Museum of Zoology website: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Leopardus_pardalis/
MacDonald, D.W. (2010), Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, pp 61-70, 528, New York: Oxford Press.
Mays, Jody (2010) Ocelot Recovery Plan, retrieved December 7, 2012 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website: http://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2010/2010-21249.html
Merchant, Brian. (2012) Save the Ocelot!. Retreived December 8, 2012, from Animal Planet website: http://animals.howstuffworks.com/endangered-species/save-ocelot.htm
Ocelots: America’s Rarest Cats. (2011) Retrieved December 8, 2012, from the Nature Conservancy website: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/texas/newsroom/texas-by-nature-ocelots.xml
Spoolman, Scott E. Miller, Tyler G. (2011), Living in the Environment, pp. 78-80, Belmont: Carnegie Learning.