Defenders of Wildlife is excited to join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in celebrating Ocelot Conservation Festival this week! This year, all activities are virtual from March 1 through March 7 and while we all miss the live events that were part of the festival in other years, the virtual format allows us to bring ocelot conservation to broader audiences in Texas and beyond.
In that spirit, we are excited to share ways that you can help ocelot conservation from Texas and from all around the world!
1. Be a message amplifier. You can assist conservation groups and scientists by following and interacting with them on social media. Most often this involves liking, commenting on and reposting their content to share with your network of family, friends and colleagues. This helps get the word out in support of ocelots to broad networks of people - and the more people that use their voices to stand up for ocelots, the better off ocelots are. You can also help bring awareness to the plight of the ocelot through social media by writing a guest blog post or submitting a letter to the editor or an op-ed to a newspaper. Keep an eye on the Defenders of Wildlife Texas Facebook page for the latest news on our work to protect ocelots!
2. Find out more. Learning about ocelots and the threats they face to survival empowers you to share their story and to raise awareness. You can start with bilingual resources on Defenders’ ocelot page to become more acquainted with this Texas wild cat and sign up for Ocelot Conservation Festival talks and other events. Many people don’t realize that we even have a population of ocelots in the U.S. and we can only take action to protect what we know and care about.
3.Get the kids involved. For students of all ages, including ocelots in a research project, presentation, art project, poem or other creative endeavor is a great way to learn more about these cats and to share this information with classmates and friends. This will help increase knowledge and may even inspire a life-long commitment to environmental conservation, no matter what career path they end up choosing. Children may also enjoy organizing a cat conservation-oriented service project on their own or through a school group. Defenders has created a bilingual activity book about the wild cats of the U.S-Mexico borderlands that is informative and fun for kids and adults!
4. Advocate. Speak up for the continued support of endangered species protections; support efforts to protect private, state and federal land that is prime ocelot habitat; and advocate for wildlife crossings on Texas roads and highways. You can make your voice heard by calling or writing letters to elected officials. Ocelots don’t get to vote or hold representatives accountable for conserving habitat and imperiled species.
5. Effect change. Support wild cats in your area by learning how to live alongside these species. Slow down on roads, particularly at dawn or dusk and night to help avoid collisions with wildlife like ocelots that hunt and travel in low light. You can make small changes in pet keeping and trash disposal can significantly reduce conflict. Utilizing poison-free rodent control techniques is an important way to ensure toxins do not enter ecosystems and impact predators that rely on rodents as prey.
6. Volunteer. There are many ways to connect with conservation organizations and put your skill sets and expertise to work, including in-person and remote opportunities. Organizations are often in need of skilled professionals with experience as writers, artists, social media content producers, website developers, lawyers, accountants and many other professions. From a few hours to a long-term commitment of time, opportunities abound. Do not hesitate to reach out to organizations, scientists and academics to ask how you can help. If you live in the Rio Grande Valley, FWS is typically in need of volunteers at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the federal lands that the Texas ocelots call home.
This week, FWS announced a new ocelot kitten in the Laguna Atascosa on the refuge’s Facebook page. A new ocelot kitten is thrilling news for a species on the brink of extinction in the U.S. Defenders of Wildlife has been working for years to protect habitat for ocelots throughout the Southwest, and this kitten spurs us on to continue the fight for this imperiled species. Join us in celebrating this little beacon of hope and all ocelots during Ocelot Conservation Week!