FCF History

On August 1, 2002 in a historic move, the membership voted by the required 2/3 majority to amend it’s constitution to change the name of this non-profit corporation from LIOC Endangered Species Conservation Federation to Feline Conservation Federation.  This is in fact the second time we have modified our name, a reflection of the evolutionary process we have undergone.  Back in the early 1950’s however, we were known as the Long Island Ocelot Club, famous for being a family of people bound by their common love of their pet ocelot and margay.

While our organization’s name has been changed, our statement of purpose remains the same as always – to propagate, preserve and protect the wild feline species. We serve a unique mission of educating the present and future generations of captive caregivers, whether pet owners or professionals, about proper husbandry of wild felines.  Today’s Feline Conservation Federation members are caregivers of a variety of wildcat species such as serval, caracal, lynx, lion, tiger, cougar, bobcat, geoffroy’s cat as well as ocelot.  The species held by FCF members has changed over the decades, but the love affair with the cats will always be the same. This contemporary fleet of Noah’s Arks is needed to ensure back-up protection as a tidal wave of humanity continues to do irreparable harm to natural areas.

We are the original and the largest organization for the private exotic feline keeper and admirer.  The 1960 Long Island Ocelot Club cat census totaled just 79 cats, mostly ocelots.  Compare that to the 1999 census; our totals were 1466 cats, with cougars the most common species held numbering 222, servals at 198, 155 tigers and 145 bobcats.  One might assume that the 155 tigers are accounted for within the large compounds, but reality is, many of our membership’s tigers are living in 1 to 3 cat facilities. Even though ocelots are tightly regulated by the USDI, there were 31 of these cats reported in the 1999 census. The next 4 popular cat species held by our membership are geoffroy’s cat, leopard, jungle cat and snow leopard.

There are also Feline Conservation Federation members who have 10 to 20 cats. Some of these members are non-profit refuges, providing homes for displaced cats. Others are on their own financially to provide food, veterinary care and enclosures for their cats.  Some of our members are breeding very successfully. Today, there are many good breeders of several species who very carefully investigate any buyers to be sure they have proper licensing, a good veterinarian, understand captive husbandry enough to provide proper habitat/environment and are educated in feline diet and safe handling.

Many of our Feline Conservation Federation members have one to three cats. These members usually have an indoor and outdoor area for their cats that allows them to share home life with their keepers, affording a very close relationship. Depending on the species, these felines might be spayed or neutered.

Some FCF members don’t have any cats but are interested in either obtaining them or supporting those who do.  We have many loyal Long Island Ocelot Club members who raised the club’s founding cats during the 50’s through the 70’s who retain their membership to support the Feline Conservation Federation’s younger generation and their cats.

Many members want to learn about the different species before making the commitment to raise one. Two important things for people to learn from the Feline Conservation Federation are which species they don’t want, and whether or not ownership is permitted in their area. The large cats aren’t for everyone, just as some of the smaller, more active species aren’t for others. Physically spending time with these cats at FCF Conventions and local Branch member’s facilities gives first-hand experience to help members make an informed choice on an exotic feline.

The 1950’s- A look Back to the beginning

Back in the 1950’s, there was no thought about endangered species, so there was no CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species), regulating their export and import. There was no U.S. Endangered Species Act to regulate interstate commerce of endangered species.  To obtain a wild-caught imported ocelot or margay kitten, all one had to do was travel to their local retail pet store and put in an order. There, people who knew nothing about the proper care and feeding of these non-domestic cousins to the domestic cat sold them to others who were equally ignorant of their special dietary and environmental needs.  This resulted in calcium deficiencies, intestinal blockages, unnecessary canine teeth removals, death from distemper and more. Something had to be done and Catherine Cisin, a caring lady from Amagansett, New York, was the woman to do it. She formed the Long Island Ocelot Club, and designed it to be a clearing-house of husbandry information as well as a fun-loving social club for ocelot lovers to share their devotion to this species with others who shared their passion.

Early Long Island Ocelot Club newsletters depict an era long past. Back then, most ocelots and margays were jungle caught and legally imported into America as kittens. They ranged in age from nearly newborn to half grown.  And they were just as likely to be suffering from illness as they were to be healthy. Differentiating between species was difficult at this young age so ocelots and margay were often misidentified. Some kittens were the byproduct of the fur trade, others were specifically gathered by professionals who specialized in obtaining kittens for the pet trade.  The mortality rate was greater then 50%, but for the kittens captured who’s mother had been killed for her pelt, it was their only chance for survival.

These jungle cats were different, interesting, but to some, frightening. This range of reactions was reflected in the human-interest stories published in national newspapers such as the article that appeared in the Daily News in Garden Grove, California on November 11th, 1958, entitled “This Fearless Pair Raises Ocelots”. Or another in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, in Massachusetts, August 1958, entitled “Tame Cats Supplement Diet of Hamburger with Occasional Shoe, Bathmat, or Blanket”. And The Ontario Gazette, in Niagara Falls, New York, published, “Ocelot startles Residents as it Strolls in Falls”. In February 1959, The Daily Breeze, in Redondo Beach, California, printed “Ocelot Angered, Holds Men at Bay”. The unpublished punch line to that story was the fact that the ocelot was actually a Long Island Ocelot Club member’s 9-pound margay.  Owners began getting defensive. “Ocelots Don’t revert to Wild, she says”, was printed in the February 1959 New Jersey Westwood Newspaper.

Early Long Island Ocelot Club newsletters were mostly shared accounts of newly acquired imported ocelots, margay and jaguarundi raised as one would any other domestic pet.  Members began gathering at each others homes at Branch meetings. Captive breeding was in its infancy, a trial-and-error learning process. In the November 1959 Long Island Ocelot Club Newsletter, Lillian Ward of California, shared the news of a pair of ocelots expecting the birth of their third litter in as many years. Her first litter a male ocelot was born December 1957 and twin ocelots were born in November 1958.

The 60’s – A blossoming population of ocelots and more

As more and more people learned of ocelots and acquired them through pet shops and importers, or returned to this country with felines they picked up abroad, the number of Long Island Ocelot Club members grew. Branch Chapters of the national club increased rapidly. It was not unusual for up to 7 ocelots to be brought to a Branch meeting and photos in early newsletters depict a variety of felines in harnesses and leashes socializing among their owners.  In those days there were no state bans and very few municipalities had laws forbidding exotic animal ownership. But all that was starting to change. . .

January 1961, Edith McNeal reported that the battle of Detroit had been won.  She had received a summons to appear in court because she “harbors an animal that is not a common household pet, to wit, one ocelot”.  Fifty Michigan ocelot owners assembled in court, including Apollo, a pet ocelot, to offer support. The Detroit News carried the story: Ocelot off the Spot – – Wins Court Battle. The win however, was due to a technicality, and it was only the beginning of the endless battles exotic cat owners were going to face ahead.

September 1962, Jayne Murray’s “Mixed Emotions” column, she concentrated on shocking news of Topaz, an escaped, pet ocelot that was shot by police, asking members, “What can be done to prevent this kind of accident?”

At November 1962 the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter reported on the Northern California Branch meeting where better then 50 people attended, including 11 ocelots, 3 jaguarundis and 2 pumas.

January 1964, Bill Engler composed ‘A Plea for the Cats’, in which he shares that having been in the business of importing, obtaining and selling Exotic Cats for a number of years, with each succeeding year he found them increasingly hard to obtain.  And the only means he could see to save our friends, the Exotic Cats, is their being bred in civilization much as dogs and common cats.

In 1967, Chuck & Harriet Leake of California announced the birth of leopard cat babies.  Exotic cats were becoming more common. The March/April edition of the LIOC Newsletter informed members, that Sears & Roebuck Company in Oakland, California offered a fairly young jaguar for sale at a cost of $1,100. In May of 1968, the National Zoo declared ocelots “semi-domestic” and therefore no longer worthy of exhibit.

The domestic births continued. In May of 1968, two chaus were born to second-generation parents owned by Juleen and John Jackson; twin ocelots were born at the Lydia Sportleder’s in New York and a margay kitten at Marianne Howard’s in Maryland.  Among the Newcomers in the September/October edition of the Long Island Ocelot Club Newsletter listed 17 ocelots, 1 margay, 3 cheetah, 1 leopard cat, 1 bobcat, 2 lions, 3 cougars, and 1 jaguar. In November, Sadie Douglas announced another domestic born margay – the second for the parent pair.

The 70’s – Responding to a changing political environment

The 70’s in the Long Island Ocelot Club heralded in a decade of change like none before. It was during this decade that the nations of the world came together to form CITES, an international agreement on the threatened and endangered state of many animals and plants that imposed protective measures on their export and import. Further, the US Congress would pass the Endangered Species Act, regulating the interstate commerce of endangered species.

A Commentary by Dr. Michael Balbo (LIOC’s Director of Conservation) titled “Conservation Relative to LIOC,” reiterated that Long Island Ocelot Club members must develop successful breeding strategies, rather than continue to import jungle-born kittens. He asked the hard questions of “When will we grow up?” and “What about tomorrow?” he quoted current advertisements which stated “Furs all the Rage”, and “Leopard is so chic”. His extensive research into the plight of wildcat conservation revealed an unexpected and chilling potential – wild cats were threatened with extinction!

The close bond of love and trust that Long Island Ocelot Club members had developed with their wards compelled them to expand that love to the entire species and to be among the first to truly comprehend the seriousness of the situation. Captive breeding was imperative. When zoological institutions made the same realization they turned to the Long Island Ocelot Club pioneers for their priceless knowledge of successful animal husbandry and it was freely given. For many zoological collections, not only knowledge, but their breeding stock as well was enhanced by Long Island Ocelot Club member contributions.

Ken and Jean Hatfield announced three ocelot births in 1971. Also that year, Floyd Houser offered captive-born leopard cat kittens for $150. Robert Baudy’s Rare Feline Breeding Compound produced 33 cubs representing 9 species. Snow leopards previously had only been successfully born in captivity seven times in over 900 world zoos, yet offspring were produced at Baudy’s compound in 1971. This facility also produced a litter of cheetah and the second ever breeding of black jaguars. Amur leopards, native to west Korea and Siberia were also bred successfully, as were both Siberian and Bengal tigers.

In 1972, Arnette Barnet of New York shared the birth of an Asian Golden Cat via Long Island Ocelot Club’s Newsletter. Dave Salisbury’s leopard produced an amazing litter of 5 kittens. Domestic born ocelots were being sold for $500. Pepper Perry announced margay kittens. Carol Weinhart detailed the birth of leopard cubs. From 1970 to 1973, the Hatfield compound produced 29 ocelots and 3 margays. From 1964 to 1973, Barbara Bond of Florida produced 12 ocelot kittens, and Herman Brooks of Florida reported 13 ocelots in six years. Charles and Sadie Douglas, also of Florida produced 14 ocelot kittens and 18 margay kittens.

It was in 1972 that the Long Island Ocelot Club held its first National Convention in Dallas, Texas, hosted by the Southwestern Branch – one of fifteen LIOC branches in existence at that time. At this Convention, in response to a rapidly changing world, the motto of the Long Island Ocelot Club that had existed for 15 years was changed. With a broadened interest that included conservation of ocelots in the wild, the word “pet” which had appeared before the word “ocelot”, was removed.  The new LIOC motto would be “Devoted to the welfare of ocelots and other exotic felines”.

In 1973, the Long Island Ocelot Club published a listing of species owned. This fascinating piece of history revealed just how common the ocelot had become. Members reported 94 ocelots and 55 margays, far and away the most common exotic feline in private homes. Cougars numbered 26, bobcats 20, jaguarundi and leopard cats 13 each. And interestingly even the more rare cats were reported; golden cat, kodkod, fishing cat and cheetah. Today’s more common cat species were rare then. Only 1 serval, 1 geoffroy, 3 tigers and 8 leopards were counted then.

Ken Hatfield was elected the first president of the Long Island Ocelot Club.  He led the organization through the turbulent decade of the 1970’s.  States had begun passing laws that severely restricted ownership of pet ocelots and other wild felines.  In 1973 Congress approved the passage of the Endangered Species Act, ending the importation of wild-born ocelot and margay kittens for pets.

The Long Island Ocelot Club created standards for feline sanctuaries to house the homeless cats that were being displaced by theses new federal, state and local regulations. Only the ocelots brought into the country prior to 1973 were exempt from Federal regulations. Ken advised the club that gaining an exemption for the progeny these felines, which formed a self-sustaining captive population, was the best hope for the future survival of LIOC ocelots.   To accomplish this goal LIOC began a registration service to document its captive population and over 160 founders were entered.

By 1975, the Hatfield’s had become nationally recognized experts in the behavior and reproduction of ocelots. They reported 33 births, with 23 surviving that year, 15 ocelots, 1 margay, 3 geoffroy, 3 cougars and 11 jaguars. The Treanor’s announced a rare feat – oncilla births – two sets of twins as well as another margay kitten. Liz Ghent’s golden cat kittens graced the May/June Newsletter cover. By July, Vic Huddleston announced another LIOC first, the birth of four black chaus. The Hauser’s ocelots produced twins and Stan & Jean Townes’ reported twin servals. Chuck and Suzi Kindt reported the birth of Golden Cats and jaguarundi; The Douglas’s reported the birth of twin ocelots as did Ethel Hauser. Susanne Ropeke’s jaguarundi produced a litter of 4 kittens, the second such litter for this mother. And the Treanor’s shared the details of a margay birth.

In May of 1977, another Long Island Ocelot Club first occurred, proving once again that captive-born felines could be counted on to produce the next generation. A domestic-born male geoffroy’s cat, owned by John Perry produced a second-generation of kittens. Jean Townes’ cats produced cougar and chaus kittens and a rare and interesting margay/ocelot hybrid was born at Barbara Brocks. Both the ocelot mother and margay sire of this little “marlot” were captive bred.

Ironically, while these births proved that captive husbandry of exotic felines by private individuals was successful and offered a suitable alternative to wild-caught felines, the stringent rules imposed by the Endangered Species Act made it illegal to sell them across state lines. The disastrous effects of the ESA were being felt in the zoo community as well. Bill Hodge of the Olympic Game Farm returned from the meeting of the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums to report that their members were being asked to write letters to their Representatives stating that they were being forced to separate breeding pairs because of the difficulties in placing animals caused by the new regulations. Long Island Ocelot members were asked to do likewise.

To influence the course of federal regulations pertaining to captive-born kittens, a massive fund-raising effort was initiated by the Long Island Ocelot Club membership to retain legal council to represent the members’ interests and protect their rights to own and breed their felines.  To further this endeavor, at the 1978 Convention general membership meeting, President Ken Hatfield announced plans for the Long Island Ocelot Club’s Legal Fund to be incorporated in the state of Florida as the non-profit LIOC (initials only) Endangered Species Conservation Federation.  This would allow donations to be tax-exempt and the legal funds to generate non-taxable interest.

Ironically however, in 1979 Congress approved the final rules on the ESA that retained the stringent restrictions on the interstate commerce of captive-born endangered species and eliminated the proposed exemption for self-sustaining captive populations.  The battle was over and our cats had lost.  During the next two decades these federal regulations intended to protect endangered species, instead set the stage for slow but steady LIOC captive population decline of this dearly beloved native-American feline.

The 80’s – A Decade of Evolution – From Long Island Ocelot Club to LIOC-Endangered Species Conservation Federation, Inc.

At the 1983 National Convention Ken Hatfield announced to the membership that LIOC Endangered Species Conservation Federation had passed its three-year IRS probationary period and was now a federally approved tax-exempt, non-profit corporation. Jean Hatfield remarked, “Ocelots and ocelot breeders are not considered rare anymore.” What Jean said then may never be true again as a stable nucleus of ocelot and margay founding stock began quietly dying off in the 1980’s.  This was the legacy of a government-imposed prohibition in commerce that created a genetic bottleneck for these magnificent felines.

As the founder felines of the LIOC Endangered Species Conservation Federation aged, members began sharing the medical history and final departure of their beloved companions. In May of 1982 the Treanor’s reported the passing of Tuffy Margay. Tuffy was born in 1964, produced 8 kittens, and was originally from Columbia, South America.  Ralph Ferrer wrote of the passing of his 18-year old ocelot. In the 1984, September Newsletter, Danny Treanor wrote of the passing of Poco and Sundae margays, who both succumbed to Feline Leukemia. Richard & Evelyn Dyck wrote about the necessity of euthanizing Teager margay, who suffered from arthritis and diabetes.  Herb Wilton shared the passing of Chili ocelot from kidney failure. A Geoffroy’s cat named Rosy that belonged to John Perry passed on. Sasha and Lefty Margays, accompanied Fred Boyajian to 4 national conventions passed away in the fall of 1985. Beejay Lester lost her Margay named Gigolo, to old age and Wendy Wulff lost her Geoffroy’s cat to a home fire.

The “Births” column reflected the species diversity in private ownership. In 1982, Don & Connie Shole had 2 sets of Geoffroy’s born in April and Penny Andrews reported 2 cougars and 4 serval born in May. Two bobcats from Gayle Schaecher; cougars, bobcats, & an ocelot for Jean Hatfield; caracal, Siberian lynx, and bobcats for Penny Andrews; twin servals for Suzi Wood; 4 lynx for Murray Killman; 2 cougars for Kim and Geri Henry, and Jeanne Maynard reported quad Siberian tiger cubs: 3 males & 1 female!

In 1985 Lil Smith had twin Margays and Jean Hatfield had 2 ocelots in May. In September John Perry had geoffroy kittens, Jean Hamil had 3 bobcat kittens, the Marshall reported a litter of cougars and jaguars, and Dale and Shirley Jackson had 2 male oncillas.

In 1986, Gayle Schaecher reported a litter of 5 bobcats, for John Perry, another male geoffroy’s kitten. The Exotic Feline Breeding Compound announced the birth of Chenchi Jaguar only #15 of his sub-species in the USA and #98 worldwide. Jean Hatfield reported 2 more ocelots and 2 bobcats. Pat Quillen’s oncilla produced twin boys. In the Nov/Dec Newsletter Dale and Shirley Jackson reported a population explosion of oncillas, 2 litters of twins.

More births came in 1988 with Donna Amos having her first litter of 3 female servals. John Perry had 2 more geoffroy’s and Fred Boyajian had a bobcat litter.

The 90’s- Increasing professionalism in private captive husbandry

The 90’s have been christened the “Decade of the Environment” and as we face an extinction crisis of epic proportions private owners of exotic felines worked to preserve felines by propagating their priceless genetic material and the future promise it holds. Harrods, the most famous department store in London, announced that effective April 1991 it would stop selling furs. This was in response to the outcry from people who cared about the animals.

The 1990 births included Jeff & Scarlett Bellingham, John Perry, Jean Hatfield and Wendi Wulff all produced Geoffroy kittens.  The Bellingham’s also produced a litter of servals, Jim Craft had a margay kitten, Lynn Culver’s facility bred cougar offspring.

In 1990 Kurt Moltner of Canada reported losing his 18-year old Margay and Art Human lost his 18-year old Geoffroy. Danny Treanor announced the passing of 21-year old margay Critter, who had sired 9 kittens. The year 1991 was also a year of losses. A wild born Margay owned by Harriet & Terry Travis passed on at an estimated age of 23 years old. Jean Hamil reported the passing of her 19-year old bobcat and JB & Reva Anderson lost their 13-year old jaguar to cancer. LIOC-ESCF’s last remaining jungle-caught geoffroy’s cat, owned by John Perry, passed on in July. Sean Puma, owned by Herb & Barbara Wilton died quietly on Oct 2nd at 18 years of age. Sean was a gentle cat that posed for many artists, some of which won national awards.

The 90’s have also been the decade of increasing pressure to eliminate captive husbandry by Animal Rights organizations that are philosophically opposed to private ownership of wildlife.  LIOC-ESCF recognized that education is the key to understanding and acceptance and stepped up efforts to help members reach the highest standard of care so that their rights and privileges to possess, breed and engage in commerce of captive-born stock can be better protected.

In 1997 the LIOC-ESCF adopted a Code of Conduct for private owners of Wild Felines. This Code of Conduct carries with it an obligation to ensure that the health and safety of the animal, the animal species, and the public are not significantly or unnecessarily threatened, and whenever practical enhanced by actions.

In 1998, to honor our first President, The Ken Hatfield Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund was established to encourage veterinary students to take courses in exotic medicine. This would help ensure that in the future there will be knowledgeable veterinarians familiar with the special needs of our charges.

The LIOC-ESCF then vice president George Stowers, developed an 8-hour Introduction to Captive Exotic Feline Husbandry course.  It is presented by several qualified instructors at various locations around the country, so that individuals who possess felines or who wish to posses these felines may be better prepared and better informed.

Things come around full circle, just as the private sector and the zoological institutions worked together in the 1970s, it appears that the future holds a promise that they will again work together in efforts toward conservation of captive born exotic felines. Our organization sends a representative to the yearly working sessions of the AZA Felid Taxon Advisory Group to act as the official Private Sector Liaison. The LIOC-ESCF established a private sector database to improve cooperation and coordination between AZA and private sector captive conservation and husbandry efforts. LIOC-Endangered Species Conservation Federation adopted a policy to encourage private owners to register their felines either directly with ISIS or the private sector feline database, and the applicable PMP Stud Books. LIOC-ESCF also adopted a policy of encouraging private owners to provide permanent identification of their cats by tattoo or transponder chip.

The Next Century – The Circle completes itself

In a time not so long ago, a generation of Americans shared their lives, their homes and their hearts in a magical, unrepeatable experiment. Pet ocelots and margays; those were times both of joy and pain, with lessons to be learned by all.

Rainforest destruction encircles the planet, what is left of natural areas is fragmented and suffering.  An extinction crisis is upon us. At the same time though, the technological society that precipitated these tragedies is also working to reverse the trend. Captive husbandry of wildlife has become more professional, sophisticated and technological. Embryo transfers, artificial insemination, Specie Survival Plans exist, all in the name of conservation.

Wildlife needs human allies, both in the wild and in captivity. Persons who understand responsible husbandry can teach other. Today’s caregivers are expected to be knowledgeable about their species, both the captive needs and the environmental factors that affect their survival in the wild. Just as each domestic-born exotic feline is an ambassador for its cousins in the wild, each caregiver must have a mission as teacher and educator. Mankind cannot love what it does not know; it is our duty to share these wondrous creatures with others. How else can humankind be convinced to reduce the relentless pressures that we exert upon nature?

There are many Feline Conservation Federation members not mentioned in this history who have contributed considerably, both in breeding and by sharing their learned experiences. From the humble beginnings as the “pet ocelot” fanciers who charmed America with their Long Island Ocelot Club, to the creation of the LIOC Endangered Species Conservation Federation, a national non-profit corporation with a strong education and conservation outlook, to the sixth decade of our history as the Feline Conservation Federation working to ensure responsible private captive husbandry of wild felines is widely viewed as a valuable and desirable adjunct to main stream conservation efforts,  we are looking into the future with great expectations.

Copyright (c) 2003 Feline Conservation Federation