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CT's Beardsley Zoo Mourns Loss of Brazilian Ocelot Kuma

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – The family at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is saddened to announce the passing of Kuma, a Brazilian ocelot (Leopardus pardalis mitis), on May 23, 2019. Kuma was one of only five Brazilian ocelots in the past twenty years to give birth after successful laparoscopic artificial insemination, and she did so twice. As a young kitten, Kuma was accidentally injured by her father and lost her left rear leg and tail as a consequence. This disability precluded Kuma from breeding naturally but did not decrease her genetic value nor her ability to bear and raise offspring. She was always a favorite of guests and beloved in the Rainforest Building. 

Her two daughters, Milagre and Alya, now reside at the Dallas Zoo and the Buffalo Zoo, respectively. Both females have bred naturally and produced kittens of their own, ensuring Kuma’s genetic contribution will carry into the future. Brazilian ocelots are becoming increasingly endangered due to human population growth and associated habitat loss. In North American zoos, a small number of ocelots are managed by the Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP), which makes breeding recommendations based on each individual’s genetic importance to the population as a whole. 

Dr. Bill Swanson, coordinator of the Ocelot SSP, said, “I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Kuma.  I cannot think of another ocelot that has contributed so much to the sustainability of the Brazilian ocelot population that we manage for conservation in our zoos.  Despite her physical impairment due to the loss of a rear leg at an early age, Kuma was able to conceive twice through artificial insemination, give birth to two healthy female kittens, and raise them successfully.  Through her daughters, Kuma now has five grand-kids and four great grand-kids, and her descendants represent almost one-third of all Brazilian ocelots managed in the SSP population.  She will be greatly missed but her genetic legacy will live on.”

Kuma was born on August 28, 2004, and arrived at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in September, 2007.Consistent attention from the Zoo’s medical team and her professional animal care staff allowed her to live her very long life in comfort. 

“Kuma was one of the most beloved animals in our Zoo family,” said Zoo Director Gregg Dancho. “She was a beautiful and significant ambassador for her species, and the epitome of how conservation programs in zoos help contribute to protecting and preserving our precious friends. From her favorite spot in the tree in her habitat, she inspired a love of wildlife in many Zoo guests over the years.” 

About Brazilian ocelots

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) are one of the more beautiful feline species. Their coat is short and soft, either whitish or tawny yellow to reddish grey. Markings run into chain-like streaks and blotches, forming elongate spots bordered with black enclosing an area darker than the ground color. An excellent hunter, the solitary ocelot primarily hunts small rodents and also will take small deer, armadillos, reptiles, and other small animals. Though it can climb trees and even swim well, the ocelot spends most of its time hunting on the ground, as long as the habitat provides thick plant cover and abundant prey. Brazilian ocelots have been classified as “vulnerable” by the Brazilian government. Population projections indicate that several small cat species, including the ocelot, will see their generic diversity reduced to dangerously low levels within the next 50 years. 

About Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

Let your curiosity run wild! Connecticut's only zoo, celebrating its 97thanniversary, features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Guests won't want to miss our Amur (Siberian) tigers and leopards, Red and Mexican wolves, and Two-toed sloths. Other highlights include the Natt Family Red Panda Habitat, our South American rainforest with free-flight aviary, the prairie dog exhibit with "pop-up" viewing areas, plus the Pampas Plains featuring maned wolves, Chacoan peccaries, Giant anteaters, and more. Guests can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful carousel. For more information, visit beardsleyzoo.org.

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