Posts Tagged With: ocelot

Conservation concerns brought to life with interactive art displays from 9th graders

Conservation concerns about animals may not be top of mind for most teenagers, but the ninth graders at Village Tech High School are far from typical.

The students from the Cedar Hill charter school were challenged this past spring to think deeply about endangered animals for a semester-long project integrating many different school subjects with an end goal of a prototype interactive sculpture.

A partnership with the Dallas Zoo elevated the original challenge by giving the students the opportunity to talk with experts and possibly have their work displayed to the public.

“The Zoo gives the project credibility and an authentic audience,” said Justin Robinson, the director of the Forge, the school lab that brought these projects to life.

By the end of the year, the ninth graders completed four interactive art display prototypes highlighting the ocelot, African elephant, hawksbill sea turtle and western lowland gorilla. These projects used art, engineering, science and more to tell the tale of endangered species.

“We want every project to result in people taking action,” said Dallas Zoo director of Education, Marti Copeland. “[Their work] exceeded my expectations.”

Learn more about each project:

Western lowland gorilla African elephant


The western lowland gorilla team planned to create a gorilla sculpture that looks like it is covered in concrete, emphasizing the habitat destruction that is threatening the animal’s population.


This team created a mechanical sculpture showing the stride of an adult elephant. An integrated 15 minute countdown clock reminds the public how often an elephant is killed in the wild for its ivory.

Ocelot Hawksbill sea turtle


The ocelot team created a sand timer wheel with facts about the carnivore. As you spin the wheel and read the facts about ocelots, the sand timer continually empties, much like the ocelot species in the wild.


The team created a hologram projection of a hawksbill sea turtle swimming. It’s activated with a 3D-printed button. The team tried using living dinoflagellates marine plankton to illuminate the activation button.

The hawksbill sea turtle and African elephant projects were selected by Zoo judges to be scaled up and adapted into public displays at the Children’s Aquarium and Dallas Zoo.

It’s onto the (now) tenth graders to press on with the projects. With the conceptual idea and prototypes created, they must solve more problems like how to scale up the sculptures, make them self-maintaining and safe for the public before eventually debuting the sculptures at the two venues.

Congratulations to the students at Village Tech. We can’t wait to see these larger-than-life projects with important message inside our Zoo and Aquarium gates!

Categories: Conservation, Education | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meet our blue-eyed (for now), rare ocelot kitten

DSC_0072 Ocelot Kitten logo

Since ocelots are very secretive, zookeepers set up a private den box in which Milagre could give birth.

There’s nothing a loving mother wouldn’t do for her baby. For ocelot mom Milagre, that means staying patient and calm while her newborn uses her head as a launch pad, tackles her feet and tail as if she’s an escaping enemy and, of course, uses her head as the world’s comfiest sleeping pillow.

This Mother’s Day, we honor 6-year-old Milagre, who recently gave birth to her second kitten. Born in the middle of the night March 20, the baby is thriving under the constant nurturing love of her mother.

Keepers continue to give Milagre and her baby privacy, and will conduct a well-baby checkup within the next few days. The baby’s weight and gender will be determined then. Plus, he or she will get a moniker. But fixate on this kitten’s deep baby blues now, because its eyes will eventually change to brown.

“Milagre is once again embracing motherhood tremendously,” said Lisa Van Slett, carnivore assistant supervisor. “She manages a lot with her energetic newborn and makes it took effortless.”

DSC_0056 Ocelot Kitten logo

This little one’s baby blues will change to brown as it gets older.

Native to Texas, ocelots face severe threats across the Lone Star State as they are pushed out when their homes are paved over. With fewer than 50 wild ocelots estimated to be living in Texas, this kitten’s birth is helping ensure the survival of this remarkable cat predator species.

“It’s concerning when we hear guests say they didn’t know ocelots are native Texas cats,” said Van Slett. “Their territory used to cover all of Texas, and now it’s rare to find one in the wild.”

Milagre will remain the sole caretaker of her kitten, since ocelots are solitary by nature. The two are expected to venture out to the ocelot habitat any day now. That’s also when the kitten will meet its neighbors – dad Joaquin and Rufus, a bobcat – for the first time.

DSC_1001a-Ocelot kitten logo

Keeper Caron O. photographs the kitten just days old.

Joaquin and Milagre were matched as a breeding recommendation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP) in 2011. As a member of the SSP, the Dallas Zoo works with other zoological parks to ensure that the ocelot gene pool remains healthy and genetically sound.

This is our fourth ocelot kitten. We welcomed Milagre’s first baby, Lindy, in June 2013. Lindy won the hearts of Texans and fans across the country with her big blue eyes and playfully innocent antics. The other two births were in 2001 and 1956. Lindy is now living at the El Paso Zoo where she’s been matched by the SSP with a mate.

If you’d like to help protect Texas ocelots, consider buying a “Save Texas Ocelots” license plate.

Categories: Mammals, Zookeepers | Tags: | 1 Comment

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