An Ocelot kitten born at the Cameron Park Zoo is being called a “miracle baby” because it was born to a mother who was beyond the known breeding age for Ocelots.
The kitten, a male named Aztec, is the first infant born to Cameron Park Zoo Ocelots Maya and Gustavo. Maya is 14 years old, an age which is considered somewhat past the prime age for successfully producing offspring. Ocelots reach sexual maturity at two to two-and-a-half years of age and their life expectancy is seven to ten years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
In November 2012, a team of veterinary specialists from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research for Endangered Wildlife (CREW) performed a reproductive assessment on Maya. Even though she was past her breeding prime, Maya was still cycling and the assessment showed that there could be a slight chance of a successful pregnancy. The team, along with Cameron Park Zoo veterinarian Terry Hurst, collected semen from Gustavo and performed an artificial insemination procedure on Maya. Unfortunately the procedure was not successful, and the assumption was that because of her age and the condition of her ovaries, Maya would not be able to become pregnant.
On May 31, 2013 Maya was not feeling well and was left in her night house. Later that morning, zoo staff members were surprised and excited to find a baby Ocelot had just been born! Maya was given a nest box and hay for bedding her infant and then left alone with her baby to allow time to bond. Apparently, Gustavo and Maya decided to have their baby “the old fashioned way” and Maya has proven to be an attentive mother. Aztec has not made his public debut in the exhibit, but zoo officlas hope to announce that very soon.
Ocelots are native to much of South America and Mexico. They are expert hunters, and are fiercely territorial. They are listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.