Ocelot Conservation Festival, hosted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Friends of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Defenders of Wildlife, returns to Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo March 17.  

Residents of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond can enjoy family-friendly activities while learning about these rare, wild cats and the efforts underway to save them from extinction. Defenders of Wildlife will sponsor free entry tickets for the first 250 children.  

Now in its 27th year, the Ocelot Conservation Festival celebrates one of Texas’ most beloved wild residents and brings attention to the challenges they face. Approximately 100 wild ocelots   are believed to reside in Texas, where they face challenges including loss of habitat to development and vehicle collisions. Expert talks hosted at the zoo will highlight innovative work underway to secure a future for these iconic cats in South Texas. 

“The fate of ocelots truly is in the hands of all Texans,” said Sharon Wilcox, Defenders’ senior Texas representative. “We have a great responsibility to see that South Texas remains their home in the future.” 

 "It’s so amazing to see the public come out each year to learn about their feline neighbor,” said Amanda De Leon, executive director of the Friends of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. “We hope to continue for another 27 years!”  

 “The refuge looks to play a key role in the community, informing and educating the public of all the conservation efforts currently underway for our ocelots,” said USFWS’ George Garcia

On Ocelot Conservation Day, there will be family-friendly activities, games and exhibits, and a chance to meet Leelou, the Gladys Porter Zoo’s resident ocelot. Experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gladys Porter Zoo, Defenders of Wildlife, American Forests, East Foundation, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, and University of Texas –Rio Grande Valley will also give presentations on ocelot conservation throughout the day. 

Ocelot Conservation Festival Events: 

Thursday, March 14: Public Talk: “Ocelots in Texas,” with Dr. Sharon Wilcox, 6-8 pm at the South Texas Ecotourism Center  

Saturday, March 16: Ocelot Run, at 7:30 a.m. at the Gladys Porter Zoo.  

Sunday, March 17: Ocelot Conservation Day

  • 9 am-3pm at the Gladys Porter Zoo. Ocelot Conservation Day Speakers:  
  • 10 a.m., “Ocelots in Texas” with Sharon Wilcox, Ph.D., Senior Texas Representative at Defenders of Wildlife 
  • 10:45 a.m., “Ocelots in South Texas, The Road to Recovery” with Lisanne Petracca, Ph.D., principle investigator, SPEC Lab, Assistant Professor of Carnivore Ecology Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute 
  • 11:30 a.m., “From Seeds to thornforests” with Gisel Garza, director of Texas and Mexico at American Forests 
  • 12:15 p.m., “Ocelot Research and Conservation on Private Ranches” with Ashley Reeves, Ph.D. Research Veterinarian, The East Foundation  
  • 1 p.m., “Ocelot Road Mitigation Monitoring Project at UTRGV” with Madison Nadler, a graduate student at UTRGV and research associate at Texas State University. 
  • 1:45 p.m., “Habitat Restoration for Ocelots at LANWR” with Sergio Vasquez, assistant manager at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge 
  • 2:30 p.m., “Safe Harbor agreement for Ocelot Re-introduction on Private Lands” with Lindsey Martinez, Program Coordinator at East Foundation.  

For over 75 years, Defenders of Wildlife has remained dedicated to protecting all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With a nationwide network of nearly 2.1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife for generations to come. To learn more, please visit or follow us on X @Defenders.


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