Environmentally-Focused Student Documents Ocelot Birth
The male Brazilian ocelot kitten was born on October 31. He is currently on exhibit with his mother at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo.
During the fall 2008 semester, Dawn Belotti, a student in Pace’s combined BS/MS program in Environmental Studies/Environmental Science, completed a research project documenting an artificial insemination process on endangered Brazilian ocelots and the resulting birth. This was the third successful ocelot birth via artificial means and the first in the past 10 years.
“I loved working on this as wildlife conservation, especially of endangered cats, is my passion,” said Belotti, who is a part-time keeper with Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo.
In August of 2008, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo invited Dr. William Swanson (Cincinnati Zoo) to perform an artificial insemination procedure on the zoo’s two Brazilian ocelots. On October 31, 2008 a male ocelot kitten was born as a result of this procedure. Dr. Swanson is one of the leading experts in small-endangered cat reproduction. The birth of Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo ocelot kitten was the third time in history a Brazilian ocelot was conceived through artificial insemination.
Until recently, the majority of ocelots in AZA facilities were of unspecific origin. Most of these cats were the result of pet trade confiscations and the surrender of pet ocelots after ocelots were placed on the endangered species list. Brazil appeared to be the only country to possess captive ocelots of pure origin. AZA has been working closely with the Brazilian Ocelot Consortium in order to gradually replace non-specific ocelots with Brazilian ocelots. Besides the captive breeding programs, Brazil has also launched an environmental education program aimed at wildlife and habitat preservation.
The artificial insemination procedure took place in August. Dr. Swanson performed the procedure. The female was given a 25% chance of conception. The procedure was successful and resulted in a pregnancy. The zoo allowed Belotti to document the procedure and the birth as a project for her ENV 380 class. Assistant Professor Melissa Grigione served as her faculty mentor.
“They are a small zoo and are very supportive of student projects that can bring more awareness to endangered wildlife and the zoo’s animals,” Belotti said.
Belotti has worked with rescued exotic cats at sanctuaries around the U.S. for the past 12 years. She recently sold her company and has semi-retired from producing photo shoots in order to complete a degree with Pace University and hopes to continue working in the animal conservation/environmental field.
“I am hoping to open a wildlife rescue facility that can also breed for repopulation,” said Belotti. “I have recently been offered land in Panama in order to become involved in ocelot protection and repopulation.”
Belotti anticipates graduating from the combined degree program within the next three years.