WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —Forty-three Florida panthers were killed in Florida last year, so animal care staff and zookeepers at the Palm Beach Zoo are promoting awareness to save the species.
Inspired by the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, Palm Beach Zoo workers walked 63 miles in four days to promote public awareness of conservation and wild habitat preservation.
“The trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It affords us the opportunity to see how panthers would migrate. Being able to go underneath overpasses gave us some insight into what it’s like through the eyes of a panther,” said Palm Beach Zoo Veterinary Technician Amber Landacre.
Their 63-mile trek from Lake Okeechobee to Hobe Sound Beach began Monday. They spent Monday night at the Powerlines Campsite, which is virtually in the middle of nowhere. Tuesday night marked their first stop at a Youth Camp in Corbett – the first real campsite on the trek. This marked welcomed luxuries such as showers and bathroom breaks.
“There were some cool sights along the way including two North American river otters, coyote, deer and we even came across two boars in bushes which aren’t native to Florida, so we saw how they’re destroying the habitat as well,” Landacre said.
This is no easy trek. The group of five conservation warriors ended with two standing: Veterinary Technician Amber Landacre and Animal Trainer Callie Coxson who joined the group during their stop at the youth camp.
“You push yourself as far as you can, but at the end of the day, blisters and body aches – especially in the Florida heat began to take a toll. Two members of our team dropped out after day two, but their spirits were with us the entire way,” Landacre said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the wild population count for the Florida panther is between 120 and 180.
Preservation is key for everyone at Palm Beach Zoo. The Conservation Society recently made headlines for the newest addition to their family, ‘Sassy’ a precocious Florida panther rescue from Naples Zoo. Sassy represents the core of Palm Beach Zoo’s mission, inspiring people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world.