Ocelots on display for conservation-aimed weekend

Sihil is an ambassador ocelot from the Cincinnati Zoo. He'll be ond hand Saturday for Ocelot Conservation Day at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville. (Courtesy photo by Dora Martinez)

HARLINGEN — On the first weekend of next month, it’s going to be ocelots practically everywhere.

Longhorn Cattle Co. Barbeque and Steak Restaurant in San Benito will host Afternoon with an Ocelot from noon to dusk on March 2.

Then the annual Ocelot Conservation Day will commence March 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, in partnership with Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

This is the best chance most of us will ever have to see a live ocelot up close.

In San Benito at the Longhorn, it’s going to be a meet-and-greet operation, said Tom deMaar, senior veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo.

“The animals will be just outside the restaurant in the backyard, which is a nice grassy area,” he said. “They are two ocelots that come from the Texas Zoo in Victoria. They are captive-reared ocelots and they are acting as ambassadors for ocelots.”

The two stars scheduled to entertain the crowd are named Clyde and Laguna, and deMaar said it will be an opportunity for the public to see an ocelot relatively up-close at the steakhouse. There is no charge to attend.

The next day, the ocelot show with Clyde and Laguna moves to the Gladys Porter Zoo for its annual Ocelot Conservation Day.

The day starts with the Ocelot 5K at 9 a.m., an event so popular with runners it sold out in just over 11 hours.

“It’s hysterical because these people come decked out in spotted everything,” deMaar said. “We have spotted leotards and tutus and its absurd — well from a non-runner perspective it’s absurd. But there’s obviously a lot of positive energy.”

The rest of the day is loaded with presentations from ocelot and wildlife experts who will explain the cats and their ecosystem.

“There will be several presentations running through the day,” deMaar said, consisting of experts giving quick five- to 10-minute briefings about ocelots. At the end of those 45-minute programs, the ocelots will be brought out “so we don’t have attention-span issues,” deMaar said.

After paying for zoo admission, Ocelot Conservation Day is free.


Saturday, March 2

WHERE — Longhorn Cattle Co. Barbeque and Steak Restaurant, 3055 W. Expressway 83, San Benito

WHAT — Afternoon with an Ocelot

WHEN — Noon to dusk

WHO — Ocelots Clyde and Laguna from the Texas Zoo

COST — Free

Sunday, March 3

WHERE — Gladys Porter Zoo, Brownsville

WHAT — Ocelot Conservation Day

WHEN — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

WHO — Ocelots Clyde and Laguna

COST — Free with zoo admission, which is $13 for adults, $8 for children 2 to 13 and $10.50 for seniors 65 and up