Mapping Brazil’s ocelots

8th June 2016

News, Student news

New research involving Wadham Lecturer Cedric Tan, estimating the density of Brazil’s ocelot population, has been published in the leading Journal PLoS One.

  • Looking like a domestic cat, ocelots weigh 8-18 kg

    Looking like a domestic cat, ocelots weigh 8-18 kg

Using photographic records from three consecutive years, combined with models to estimate ocelot density in Central Amazonia, the study by Daniel Rocha, supervised by Cedric, has shown that ocelot densities are stable but lower than expected for the region.

The ocelot is the most abundant wild member of the cat family (felid) in Brazil where it is believed to play an important ecological role in influencing the dynamics of other small-felid species populations. Severely hunted during the 1960s and 1970s to meet international fur trade demands, the number of wild ocelots had seen a sharp decline. The species is now classified as ‘Least Concern’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, with deforestation and habitat loss being the main current threats.

The study, supported by Mamirauá Sustainable Development Institute, indicated that ocelot densities in Amanã Reserve were stable from 2013 to 2015, with an average of 25 ocelots per 100 km2. However, this estimate is lower than expected for the region, suggesting that the natural ocelot density in some pristine regions of the Amazon may in fact be lower than that predicted by previous modelling studies.

The results help improve understanding of the ocelot spatial distribution pattern and will be useful for refining the ocelot extinction risk assessment and underpinning future conservation actions focused on the species. This study also provides insights and recommendations for future surveys aiming to estimate felid density in the Amazon.

Cedric explained how he came to work with Daniel on the publication: “Daniel was a 2015 student of the Recanati-Kaplan Centre Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice at WildCRU, where I’m a tutor, assisting in the teaching of statistical modelling in ecology. Ocelots closely resemble my study species, Asian clouded leopards, and share a similar ecological niche, so I was involved in coaching the data analysis and writing the publication. The ocelot and clouded leopard are medium-sized predators sub-dominant to the larger-sized jaguar in South America and leopard in Asia respectively.”

Daniel and Cedric now have plans to collaborate on examining the effects of habitat and climate change on jaguar populations in South Brazilian Amazon.

Cedric Tan is a postdoctoral researcher and college lecturer in Biological Sciences at Wadham College. He joined the Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCRU) in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford in 2014.