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Endangered Florida Panther Kitten Rescued by Biologists in Collier County: FWC [VIDEO]

First Posted: Feb 21, 2014 04:01 AM EST

A young male Florida panther kitten was rescued by biologists from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County.

The week-old endangered feline was discovered during a research mission in January. The biologists immediately rescued the 1 pound kitten who was suffering from extremely low body temperature. The panther kitten was then transferred to the Animal specialty Hospital of Florida, Naples, where veterinarians worked hard to save the animal. The kitten was kept under observation for 24 hours, though his conditions improved.

"We want to give any panther kitten the best opportunity to survive in the wild," said FWC veterinarian Dr. Mark Cunningham. "But clearly this kitten was in poor condition and almost certainly would have died without intervention."

After 24 hours of observations, it was shifted to Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo for neonatal care and rearing. After initial tests the zoo officials announced that the four-week old kitten was healthy and active with an excellent appetite.

When the kitten was introduced at the zoo, it weighed just 2.8 pounds. But with efforts from the vets and the zoo attendants, the kitten's health improved and it currently weighs 4.1 pounds and is growing every day.

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo functions in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to provide strong veterinary services to the wild Florida panther population, which is the most endangered mammal in eastern United States. The population of these slender cats is less than 100. The young male kitten is the fourth kitten and eighth panther to be rehabilitated at the zoo.

"This kitten exemplifies how joint efforts of the FWC, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners are helping recover imperiled species in Florida," said Kevin Godsea, manager of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge for the USFWS. "We are certainly pulling for him and hope he leads a long, healthy life."

The panther kitten is receiving 24-hour care from the veterinary team that is led by Dr. Ray Ball, director of medical sciences. Next the team will work to wean the kitten from the bottle and introduce some solid food.

Before being transferred to the Elli Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, the kitten's new home, he will be vaccinated. During his stay at Tampa, the unnamed kitten will not be kept for public viewing due to his young age and health conditions. But he will be kept for public display at his new home.

The kitten is too young to beat the odds of surviving in the wild. The officials have no plans of returning the panther kitten to the wild.

Apart from providing rehab services, Tampa Zoo is an active member of the field team for the FWC that monitors panthers with the help of radio collars. They also work on collecting biomedical data.


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