Purr-fectly adorable - Albuquerque Journal

Purr-fectly adorable

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Two healthy kittens, a male and a female, were born recently at the ABQ BioPark Zoo. The mother is 5-year-old Lucy, and the father is 2½-year-old Dale. (Greg Jackson, ABQ BioPark)

For the first time in the history of the ABQ BioPark Zoo, ocelot kittens have been born.

The zoo announced Tuesday that 5-year-old Lucy gave birth to two healthy kittens on Oct. 2. The father is 2½-year-old Dale. Both are first-time parents. The kittens, a male and a female, have not yet been named.

They each weighed about 2 pounds on Nov. 13, when they underwent their first examination and received their first vaccinations, mammal curator Erin Flynn said.

“This is an important milestone for the BioPark, and we’re happy to report that mom and kittens are doing great,” Flynn said. “It’s a big deal for a first-time mom to have two kittens and be taking such good care of them.”

Lucy arrived at the BioPark in June 2015 from the Abilene Zoo in Texas, and Dale came in April 2018 from the Greenville Zoo in South Carolina. The two were recommended for breeding under the Ocelot Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Ocelots are notoriously difficult to get pregnant, Flynn said. In 2017, zoo staffers attempted to artificially inseminate Lucy. Although the attempt was not successful, the process made Lucy more receptive to breeding with Dale, Flynn said.

Lucy’s pregnancy provided a bonus of information for the ocelot management database.

Lucy had not shown any of the typical signs of being pregnant, such as weight gain, teat development and behavioral changes. She also continued to mate through her pregnancy. Consequently, the birth of the kittens was a surprise, Flynn said.

Ocelots are native to the Americas, with populations from the southwestern United States into much of northern South America. Pockets of ocelots exist in South Texas and southeastern Arizona.

The dappled, fine fur of ocelots has made them the target of hunters and has pushed this animal onto the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list, protecting them under the federal Endangered Species Act.

According to Animal Diversity Web, a website of the University of Michigan, ocelots are generally about twice as large as the average housecat, ranging in size from 2 to 3 feet long and weighing 19 to 35 pounds.

Largely solitary and nocturnal, ocelots have keen sight and hearing, which aids them as they stalk their primary prey – rabbits, rodents, lizards, fish and frogs. Unlike many cats, they do not avoid water and can swim well.

The ocelot kittens at the ABQ BioPark Zoo are being watched over by their mother in her behind-the-scenes den. It is not known when they may be available to be seen in their public viewing area.

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