|Mira the Florida Panther, photo by Claudia Harden|
The Palm Beach Zoo is announcing the arrival of a pure Florida panther, one of the most endangered large mammals, and a brand-new name that highlights the Zoo’s mission. Mirasol, affectionately known as Mira, is a twelve-year-old panther received from the South Florida Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (SFWRC) before its closure, arrived at the Zoo on October 11, 2013. She is currently staying in required quarantine in the Zoo’s animal hospital, the Melvin J. and Claire Levine Animal Care Complex, before she will go on exhibit in December.
The founder of SFWRC contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. An FWC officer sought appropriate placement for the animals that were currently at the shelter, and contacted the Palm Beach Zoo to receive Mira. According to the SFWRC’s website, Mira's father, Spudnik, was used to fight three pit bulls at a time before he was discovered with 14 bite wounds on his body. He was considered aggressive, and was placed with another panther, Elsie, to socialize him-- which resulted in three panther kittens, of which Mira was one. A genetic blood test showed Mira is a pure Florida panther.
“Mira’s arrival is so exciting for us, because she serves as a symbol of the vanishing South Florida ecosystem,” said Jan Steele, General Curator of the Zoo. “We hope that by giving our guests the chance to see her, as an animal that is native to our own region, we will increase awareness of the plight of Florida panthers in the wild.”
Mira is very affectionate with Zoo staff, leading zookeepers to believe she was well-loved in her previous shelter. According to Zoo veterinary staff, her current physical condition is good, considering her age. Zoo vets performed radiographs and a full physical exam, which led to a diagnosis of lordosis (spine curvature). The condition makes her much less flexible, so she sometimes exhibits stiff movements. Zookeepers and vet staff members are working on building her muscle and increasing her flexibility, as well as enriching her quarantine time with play to help her in the transitional period.
Zoo board member Candy Hamm and her husband William Hamm named Mirasol, meaning “sunflower.” The Hamms are long-standing supporters of the Zoo’s “Big Cat Program.”
Along with announcing Mira, the Zoo is also announcing its new name: “Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society.” The addition of “Conservation Society” to the Zoo’s title was approved by the Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches Board of Directors on September 30, 2013. This addition will more accurately reflect the Zoo’s mission of inspiring people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world, and to highlight the collective challenge of protecting species from the real threat of extinction. A new Zoo logo is currently in the works.
“The Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society is recognized as a leader in conservation and endangered species survival,” said Andrew Aiken, President and CEO of the Zoo. “We want to effectively communicate our purpose through our title, so we can highlight our conservation efforts.”
“If we don’t figure out ways to share the planet sustainably with other species, they will be gone. They are no match for us,” continued Aiken. “It’s not somebody else’s problem—the challenge of preventing species’ extinction belongs to all of us.”
The Zoo is taking action to lower its own electrical and carbon footprints, to ultimately lessen global pressure on wild habitat. As a conservation-minded organization, the Zoo aims to inspire guests to take initiative to act in conservation efforts in their daily lives. There are also plans to begin a garden to feed its Zoo animals, as officials want to support locally-grown foods and embrace the “locavore” movement.
About Florida Panthers: The Florida panther, the official state animal of Florida, is one of 30 Puma concolor subspecies known by many names, including puma, cougar, mountain lion, painter, catamount and panther. According to the FWC, there are currently between 100 and 160 Florida panthers in the wild. Florida residents can support conservation efforts like the rescue and rehabilitation of panthers through the purchase of a Protect the Panther license plate.
The FWC advises when driving in a panther habitat, be alert, decrease your speed, increase the distance between you and other cars, and scan the roadsides for reflective animal eyes. To report dead or injured panthers, call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone. For more information about Florida panthers, go to www.FloridaPantherNet.org.