Today in February 2019, online news media is chattering excitedly about a video from a camera trap of a wild ocelot meandering through the Arizona wilds. He looks very lonely; he should be because they are extremely rare. In fact the video that you see is the first ever publicly released trail camera video of an Arizona ocelot.
Note: this video won’t be here for long! If it is missing please click on this link.
Humankind as a whole has many problems and three of them are (a) a short-term memory (b) shortsightedness (c) arrogance and the desire to dominate wildlife.
I mention these three human weaknesses because in the light of the ‘excited chattering’ as I describe it on seeing this ocelot, we need to remind ourselves that US customs figures from the 1960s show that ocelot skins dominated the US fur market, reaching a high of about 140,000 skins in 1970. It takes an average of 12.9 ocelot skins to make a fur coat, and the coat sold for as much as US $40,000. They were the days. Fur coats are still sold as you know.
Historically, ocelots were found as far north as Arkansas and Arizona in North America. In 1992 the distribution of this cat extended from southern Texas going south through the coastal lowlands of Mexico through Central America into South America.
Legislation followed the burgeoning US fur market to prohibit the import of most spotted cat skins. In addition to killing ocelots for their skin, the other way that humans have reduced this cat species’ numbers is habitat loss. This is habitat loss due to human population growth and activity such as cattle ranching. Throughout the ocelot’s range there’s been clearing of forest areas for cattle ranching and agriculture reducing the amount of suitable habitat for this small wild cat. This cat species does not survive well in human-altered habitats. The species has been mercilessly persecuted for many years and now we delight at seeing a murky video of the cat in Arizona. What is wrong with humans?
To conclude, noting this rare ocelot in a camera trap video should simply serve to remind us how disastrously people treated this beautiful small wild cat species in the past. There’s no point being excited now about it. There should be sadness, acute sadness of what humans have done and to what state they have reduced this beautiful cat.
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