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      Nature Report: Friends of the Year Award

      The Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge has received the Southwest Region Friends of the Year award from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The local friends group was formed in 1997 to assist Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

      The non-profit friends group runs the gift shop at the refuge and supports myriad conservation efforts with a special focus on the recovery of the endangered ocelot. Dr. Tom deMaar, veterinarian at the Gladys Porter Zoo, is the president of the Friends of Laguna Atascosa and has devoted countless hours to the organization including volunteering his medical expertise in working with the rare ocelot. Dr. Tom deMaar, "The ocelot is a large part of our focus. The ocelot has become the signature child for Laguna Atascosa since it is the last place on public land that the ocelot exists in the United States." With less than fifty ocelots thought to remain in the wild in southernmost Texas and only some 15 living on the refuge, the secretive cats have become the focus of much of the Friends Groups conservation efforts. One of the primary accomplishments of the Friends Group has been securing an ocelot specialty license plate through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Dr. deMaar, "Any resident of Texas can get an ocelot on their license plate. It costs $30.00 extra, but of those $30.00 that you pay on an annual basis to have an ocelot license plate, either a new one or a re-registration, $22.00 goes directly to the Friends Group to help U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Texas Parks and Wildlife to do ocelot conservation in the state of Texas." If you are interested in joining the Friends of Laguna Atascosa then contact them thru their website. Dr. Tom deMaar, savetexasocelots.org is our principal website." With your Nature Report I'm Richard Moore