Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ocelots On My Mind

I've been thinking about ocelots a lot lately. Last week ocelots were the Who Am I? mystery cat, and I learned a lot about their struggles to survive from researching that post

I've finished my training for docents at the Virginia Zoo, so I was notified by email today that Xanica, the lovely ocelot that graced the nocturnal house, was euthanized. She was 22 years old. She had cancer and her quality of life had diminished to the point that the difficult decision was made to end her suffering. She was a favorite with visitors, including me.

With ocelots on my mind, I went searching for some old photos.
Freckles and me, circa 1980
My affection for ocelots dates back to 1980, when I took a job at an educational nature center in Florida. The director hatched a plan to  get Freckles the Ocelot habituated to a staff member, then offer the county schools ocelot visits with a talk on endangered species. I was thrilled to be chosen for this exciting assignment. Freckles and I began taking long walks on trails around the nature center. One day we spotted an alligator in a ditch a few feet away! Luckily there was a fence between us and the gator. 
I wanted Freckles' beautiful face in the photo.

After a few months a school complained that they felt it wasn't safe to have the ocelot near young kids. Which of course it wasn't! That was the end of the ocelot visiting program. I was sad. I got the feeling Freckles enjoyed her excursions. (The director substituted goat visits. It just wasn't the same, and the goat wasn't nearly as well-behaved as Freckles).

A lot has changed since 1980, at schools and in wildlife care! If I was an ocelot's zookeeper nowadays I'd have all sorts of procedures to prevent contact for the safety of both the ocelot and me. I had a rare opportunity, and I'm grateful. 


  1. What a rare and wonderful opportunity indeed. Lucky you. Our main Zoo in London does not allow the animals to become use to people only the ones that were pets and rehomed in the zoo. They mainly breed but do take on some exotic species that should not have been owned as pets. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. That is so awesome that you got a chance to have a friendship with such a beautiful animal! You are lucky to have that great memory!

  3. Oh my, you were so lucky to have had such a wonderful experience. Too bad the program had to end but I can see the school's point.

    So sorry to hear about Xanica.


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