Cat fancy: Ocelot Run supports conservation, education

BROWNSVILLE — Gray, rainy weather didn’t keep participants in the 2018 Ocelot Run from taking their places at the starting line Saturday morning outside Gladys Porter Zoo.

With some sporting cat ear headbands and all manner of animal prints, 900 people ran, jogged and walked in the 5K and one-mile divisions of an event that took them through the zoo.

“It’s different because if you were to run through the zoo during a normal day, people would think you were crazy,” said Jacque Ary, 32. “It’s that feeling of accomplishment when you cross that finish line.”

The run coincided with Ocelot Conservation Day events at the zoo and featured an appearance from the Cincinnati Zoo’s ocelot ambassador, Sihil.

Gladys Porter Zoo Senior Veterinarian Tom DeMaar said proceeds from the 5K fund the visit from Sihil and Cincinnati Zoo staff. Also, DeMaar is a board member of Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the only public lands with ocelot habitat.

The event is “public outreach for thousands of people who didn’t know ocelots live in our neighborhood and that the last population of ocelots in the U.S. lives right here,” he said, adding that tickets for the run typically sell out within 12 hours. “I think we’ve had a large impact.”

An estimated 80 ocelots remain in the United States, and all are in the Rio Grande Valley.