Kittens always seem to be crowd-pleasers, but sometimes it takes a little while for them to venture outside. Zoo Berlin welcomed an Ocelot kitten on July 16, and the little one has been nursing, sleeping and growing strong out of the public's sight, until recently. Keepers have noticed some stirrings now that the kitten is about nine weeks old. Even though these cats are mostly nocturnal, visitors have an increasing chance of catching a glimpse of the beautifully-patterned mother and baby. As the zoo's press release noted, the elusive nature of these creatures might not be the best draw for the zoo— but it certainly is typical cat! The nine-year-old mother does a good job keeping her baby out of sight.
Ocelots live in a variety of ecosystems in Central and South America, from tropical forests of all types to grasslands, coastal mangroves and marshes, and thorny scrublands. Their range once included the Gulf Coast of the United States, but now only a very small number remain, mostly in south Texas and Arizona. These cats were heavily hunted for their spotted fur, but are now protected throughout most of their range.
Because Ocelots are solitary and territorial cats, the father is living in a separate enclosure to ensure that mother and baby have the space and privacy that they need. Ocelots have a fairly low reproductive rate, which poses a challenge to conservation. A litter size of one kitten is typical, and offspring develop slowly. A kitten's eyes remain closed for up to 18 days, and juveniles often stay with their mother for up to two years before leaving to establish their own territory.