There are only about 60 ocelots left in the USA. They were nearly all killed for their exotic coat. Remember those days of exotic fur coats? Well they were often the product of hundreds of thousands of dead ocelots. Sad. Now we are playing catch up and it is almost impossible to protect this medium sized wild cat species.
There is a reserve near the Mexican border where 50-85 ocelots live in the wild; the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. It is 2000 acres of ideal ocelot habitat. It is right on the Rio Grande on the border with Mexico. It is a place particularly suited to illegal immigration because of the dense cover. Therefore a wall if it is to built is suited to this place. Customs officials apprehended 137,000 people in the area in 2017.
The reserve is on Frank Yturria’s ranch and he loves the cats. He is called the “father of ocelots” and he likes it. He loves to keep his ranch as it was back in the old days so that his kids and their kids can enjoy the wildlife including the super rare ocelots of America. This cat is usual found in Latin America. The refuge manager is Robert Jess. He says ocelot are a keystone species. The demise of the cat will impact other species.
The main threat to these cats is habitat loss and fragmentation. This is where Trump’s wall comes in. It will further damage their habitat and present a barrier for the cats in traveling to another ocelot population in Mexico. This is important to avoid inbreeding which in turn can lead to infertility. If that happens this cat species will gradually become extinct in the USA. One of the great threats to the survivability of small population sizes of wild cats is inbreeding and infertility.
One of the odd aspects of this story is that Frank supports the construction of the wall. Clearly he is prepared to compromise ocelot conservation in the interests of keeping out illegal immigrants.