FLORIDA PANTHER RECOVERY PROGRAM
with Frank Ridgley DVM, Zoo/Wildlife Veterinarian for Zoo Miami's Conservation & Research Department
The Florida Panther is a subspecies of the cougar whose last remaining population only exists in South Florida in less than 5% of its former range. Through historical bounties, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, genetic bottle-necking, and road collisions, Florida Panthers are estimated to only have a total population of 120-230 individuals left. This is actually a recovered number for the species that was once believed to be down to a population in the 20s a couple of decades ago. To remain viable, the current population would need to at least double in size. A major problem with this fact is that little suitable contiguous habitat remains, female panthers are slow to disperse, habitat destruction and roadway mortality continues, and male panthers aggressively maintain territories that are around 200 square miles.
Zoo Miami veterinary staff assists the biologists in the National Park Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff in the Big Cypress National Preserve to conduct their monitoring of the resident Florida Panther population in the preserve. This ongoing monitoring program helps guide policymakers in managing the population, tracking mortality events, and learning about kitten survival.
Dr. Frank Ridgley monitoring a Florida panther's recovery from anesthesia as it had a new tracking collar placed by biologists.
Mahala, the orphaned Florida panther kitten that was placed at Zoo Miami and is now resident at the Florida: Mission Everglades exhibit.
On Nov. 7th, 2017, a custom made crate was delivered to the FWC offices in Naples for use by biologists working with Florida panthers in the field. The creation of the crate was made possible through a $12,500 grant from the Florida Panthers Foundation’s Community Champions Program to Zoo Miami in March 2017. This crate will ensure safe transport for sick or injured panthers.