Zoo uses rare procedure to save even rarer cat

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) – The Beardsley Zoo used science and technology Tuesday to try to preserve a very rare species. It was a delicate artificial insemination procedure designed to keep a breed of Ocelot from dying out.

“These are Brazilian Ocelots and there’s only about 35 of them in North American zoos, so it’s a very rare and valuable population,” explained Dr. Bill Swanson of the Cincinnati Zoo.

That is why the Beardsley Zoo wants their female ocelot, named Kuma, to have more kittens. The trouble is, Kuma lost a hind leg as a kitten. That keeps her from breeding naturally, but Bill Swanson of the Cincinnati Zoo is an expert on artificial insemination. He’s here to try that for the sixth time on Kuma. It worked twice, which is a first in history. She’s had 2 beautiful kittens that have gone on to have kittens of their own. This time the sperm is from a male named Marcel, who went from the Granby Zoo in Canada, to the Cincinnati Zoo.

“And he reproduced with our female once, and then last year he died, but we had his sperm frozen, and so it gives us a chance to move his genetics to other institutions and hopefully produce offspring with cats like Kuma,” Swanson said.

So he’s trying to use sperm from a dead ocelot to impregnate one that can’t get pregnant naturally. That is just the kind of important preservation work Zoos like this do all the time. You just don’t see that side of things when you come to look at the pretty animals.

“A Zoo is about more than just coming to visit and having a good time,” said Beardsley Zoo Deputy Director Don Goff. “There’s a lot of important work that goes on in the background.”

Unfortunately, when they put a small camera inside Kuma, they found a large cyst on one ovary, and no current ovulation. That cuts down on the odds of the procedure working.

“We like to see some fresh ovulation, so the fact she hadn’t ovulated on the right ovary is a little disappointing, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a chance of getting pregnant,” said Swanson.

The zoo will do either an x-ray or an ultrasound 40 days from now to determine if Kuma is pregnant or not.