English Common Names: Ocelot, Painted Leopard, McKenney’s Wildcat
Spanish Common Names: Manigordo, Ocelote
Scientific Name: Leopardus pardalis
Survival Status: In Costa Rica they are considered in danger of extinction and are protected under Wildlife Conservation Law No. 7.317. They are also internationally protected by CITES (Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species). They were classified as a “vulnerable” species from 1972 until 1996 but are now rated “least concern” by the 2008 IUCN Red List which is the least endangered of its ratings.
The IUCN Conservation status order is as follows: 1) Least Concern 2) Near Threatened 3) Vulnerable 4) Endangered 5) Critically Endangered 6) Extinct in the Wild 7) Extinct
Characteristics: The Ocelot is the third largest of the Central American wild felines weighing 25-35 lbs. and measuring about 5 feet from head to tail. They are about twice the size of an average house cat although sizes among individuals can range dramatically with the male being significantly larger than the female. They are primarily nocturnal and have keen eyesight including day and night vision and hearing. The white rings around the ocelot's eyes help to reflect extra light into the eye at night.
They are good climbers, jumpers and swimmers and do not avoid water so they are adept at crossing natural boundaries like rivers. Like all wild cats in the Americas they lead a solitary existence and do not form groups.
Their only natural predator in the wild is the Jaguar which will hunt them for food and to eliminate competition for prey. Biologists believe that the reason they have the white spots on the back of their ears is to protect them against Jaguar attacks because the spots look like eyes from behind and a jaguar prefers to attack only when its prey is not looking.
They are known by the name “Manigordo” in Costa Rica which means “fat hands” because of the extremely large size of their front paws in relation to their bodies. The name “Ocelot” derives from the Aztec word tlalocelot, which means “field tiger”.
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