This 1-to-2 year project will be a transparent, exploratory process to investigate the feasibility of establishing a new ocelot population in Texas. The project will not be releasing ocelots in Texas now, and no determination has been made whether it is possible or desirable to establish a new population of ocelots. Additionally, prior to any decision to proceed with a proposal for reintroduction, a public outreach effort will be performed to identify and address potential concerns regarding a reintroduction effort and to ensure landowner coordination, engagement, and, hopefully, support. We invite all interested persons to sign up to receive project updates via email, which will ensure continued involvement and information as the project proceeds.
Ultimately, an ocelot reintroduction would be aimed at contributing to ocelot recovery under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Creating a new population of ocelots in Texas would increase the total number of wild, resident ocelots in the state, grow ocelots’ current range, and expand the genetic diversity of ocelots in Texas. Further, establishing a new ocelot population far from coastal areas could provide a safeguard for the survival of ocelots in the U.S. in the case of a devastating storm on the Texas coast.
After exploring different possibilities, the project partners may propose to pursue actual ocelot reintroduction. Given the strong desire to provide regulatory relief and assurances to landowners, we anticipate a possible reintroduction proposal would be subject to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rulemaking or permitting process. Either tool would include the opportunity for public comment and will include an extensive coordination effort with landowners interested in participating in ocelot reintroduction efforts. This project is currently exploring scientific material and existing ocelot research to assess paths forward for ocelot conservation. No decision-making on ocelot reintroduction is occurring at this time.
"The Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), based at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, is focused on improving conservation outcomes for endangered wild felids, including the wild ocelots of South Texas. Over the past 25 years, CREW has been studying imperiled wild felids as one of its Signature Projects, investigating the reproductive biology of eight small felid species, including the ocelot, to improve population management within zoos, and developing assisted reproduction approaches to support natural breeding efforts. CREW's success in applying semen collection, cryopreservation and artificial insemination with zoo-housed ocelots has laid the groundwork for using similar approaches to assist with propagation and recovery of wild Texas ocelots. Within the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), CREW also plays a key role in managing ocelot populations under human care by providing coordination of the AZA's Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP)."
— Project Partner, The Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife
"We are focused on the study of health issues arising from the interaction of wildlife, livestock, humans, and the environment, as well as supporting the advancement and study of biomedical and veterinary sciences. We became involved in this collaborative project in 2019, and our role is investigating the feasibility of assisted reproductive techniques and conducting disease surveillance of ocelot populations. This information can be further explored for the conservation of ocelot populations in the future and ensure we are able to enjoy this species in the wild of south Texas. Further, we are excited to apply our research to the advancement of reproductive sciences of ocelots and provide a general health monitoring system for the current and future populations. We are thrilled to be a part of this effort to conserve this beautiful species."
— Project Partner, the University of Tennessee Comparative and Experimental Medicine program and The Center for Wildlife Health
"Wildlife species do not recognize borders. However, due to habitat loss, endangered Texas ocelots have been isolated from Mexican populations of ocelots, resulting in reduced genetic variability. To help alleviate this problem, it is imperative to create conservation programs, such as this ocelot recovery project, for the future preservation of the ocelot in Texas.
Members of Predator Conservation, A.C. have conducted ocelot field projects in both Texas and Northeast Mexico for more than 25 years. For this ocelot recovery plan, our task is to be the liaison between Mexican and American governments and conservation institutions."
— Project Partner, Predator Conservation, A.C.