In a Florida forest a one-week-old panther kitten was found alone, cold and in critical condition. In late January of 2014 the panther kitten found in Florida was almost frozen to death, suffering from malnutrition and hypothermia.
When biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were completing research in the field at the end of January when they stumbled upon the tiny kitten, just seven days old, who was abandoned by its mother. As the kitten was cold, unresponsive and in desperate need of care, the researchers rescued the panther kitten, taking it with them in attempts to save its young life. Shortly after the kitten’s rescue, he was taken to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida where the panther kitten found in Florida almost frozen to death was nursed back to health. Currently the kitten is one month old and is recovering in a rehab facility for hurt wild animals at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida.
Since the panther kitten was rescued he has made significant progress, having been under intense supervision and nursed to health by biologists and veterinarians. However, due to his mother’s abandonment at such an early age, in combination with his rescue and health intervention by humans, the panther kitten will never be able to live in the wild again. The kitten’s life in an artificial natural environment is also due in part to its inability to learn survival tactics and hunting skills. The Lowry Park Zoo does not plan on keeping the panther kitten to be a part of an exhibit once the panther kitten is fully recovered. Instead, the kitten will eventually make the move to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Here the panther will have the ability to grow up and spend his life in a more natural environment than a zoo. However the park will let biologists and researchers monitor the panther throughout its life, and visitors to the park can observe him in a more natural habitat.
According to the Natural Wildlife Federation this panther kitten is one of about only 100 panthers left living in Florida, making the Florida Panther an endangered species. The Florida Panther, the official animal of the sunshine state, has been listed as an endangered species officially since 1973. There have been several attempts to protect the panthers and keep them from becoming extinct, one of those including the Florida Panther Recovery Plan, which hopes to relocate the panthers to a part of Florida which is more conducive to their survival. The panther’s dwindling population and place on the endangered species list can be attributed to many causes. These include a loss of their natural habitat and farmland due to commercial development, inbreeding, disease, and in some cases high mercury levels in fish that the panthers eat. The Florida Panthers that are still alive in the wild live in Southern Florida in the swamps, as well as Big Cypress National Park and Everglades National Park.
With the close supervision and care that the panther kitten, who was found in Florida almost frozen to death, is receiving it is expected that he will make a full recovery.
By Allison Longstreet