The name ocelot comes from the Aztec word ōcēlōtl, which they used for the larger Jaguar and not the small cat that bears the name today. Ocelots, also known as painted leopards, are mostly nocturnal. They were revered by some cultures, particularly Peruvians, who often depicted them in art.
There are ten subspecies of ocelot. The species was once classified as ‘Vulnerable’, mainly because hundreds of thousands were killed for their valuable fur (which looks superficially like jaguar fur). Between the early 1960s and the mid-1970s an estimated 200,000 individuals were killed every year! Since 2008, the species has been rated ‘Least Concern’, although some subspecies are listed as ‘Endangered’. Due to slow life cycle (long gestation periods, small litter size of usually one young and slow development of young) the species remains vulnerable to even low levels of exploitation.
Distribution: from Mexico, through Central and South America to north-eastern Argentina and southern Brazil; remnant population north of the Rio Grande, USA
Conservation status: Least Concern
Evolutionary distinctiveness: Low