Thursday, February 11, 2010

Texas gala will benefit Project Ocelot

St. Valentine's Ocelot Gala scheduled for Friday

February 10, 2010 9:52 PM
By TRAVIS WHITEHEAD, The Brownsville Herald

LOS FRESNOS — Sihil the ocelot will fly here from Cincinnati for a Valentine’s Day celebration in her honor.

She will appear at the Rio Bravo Wildlife Institute’s St. Valentine’s Ocelot Gala on Feb. 12 to raise awareness about the ocelot — only about 50 remain in South Texas — and to raise money. The gala will be held at the Inn at Chachalaca Bend, 36298 Chachalaca Drive No. 1 from 7 p.m.–midnight and will feature a live auction, dinner and dancing. Single tickets are $100.

"This event, it’s basically a big fundraiser to kick off our Project Ocelot campaign," said Joe Boswell, outreach director. "And it’s a way for members from all over the community to kind of get to know each other and bring all the different refuges together. One of our biggest initiatives is education, and so this is a way to kind of get businesses and schools involved in knowing about the endangered species in the area."

Sihil is a very special ocelot, said Lisa Torch, public relations director for Rio Bravo Wildlife Institute.

"Sihil, the Mayan word for ‘born again,’ is a most appropriate name for the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s ocelot, which was conceived in a petri dish and then frozen for three years," Torch said in a press release. "She was implanted in a surrogate mother at the zoo, and she came into the world Aug. 16, 2000."

One of the most important objects of the Rio Bravo Wildlife Institute is to increase awareness of the ocelot’s existence, said Carol Sebastian, executive director of the wildlife institute. While the Florida panther, Indian tiger, and African lion are well known, the ocelot is not as popular.

"The ocelot is not a well-known cat and so we need to raise the actual awareness that this cat exists and that this cat needs our help, just as all the other cats do," Sebastian said.

All concerned citizens can do something to protect the ocelot, said Sebastian.

"If you’re a private landowner you can help the ocelot by preserving your habitat for the ocelot," she said. "As you well know the majority of land in South Texas is privately held and there’s a lot of good habitat on private land. Bring in the schoolchildren, so that they are aware of the ocelot and its needs, and the benefit that it brings to the community. From the business standpoint, it’s a great eco-tourist attraction."

Sebastian said some ranchers set up photo blinds so that nature lovers and photographers can take pictures of the ocelot.

"If there were more of those that would do a lot of things," she said. "It would benefit the economy, be a tourist benefit, and it would certainly raise the awareness that the ocelot exists in this area. So there is a lot that can be done that doesn’t require a great deal of action on the part of whoever is doing it."

http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/valentine-108473-fresnos-friday.html

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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