A tiny Florida panther was rescued in the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge last month, just after a record cold snap, and is now receiving care at Lowry Park Zoo.
The kitten will receive neonatal care and rearing at the zoo, according to Rachel Nelson, zoo director of public relations. The kitten is now 4 weeks old, and is active with a healthy appetite. He weighed 2.8 pounds when he arrived at the zoo and now is up to 4.1 pounds.
The kitten is getting 24-hour care from a veterinary team led by Dr. Ray Ball, Nelson said. In the next few weeks he will be weaned from a bottle to meat-based diet.
Once he reaches 8 weeks old, he will get his vaccinations in preparation for his transfer to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where visitors can see him.
The kitten was only seven days old, weighed just one pound and was suffering from a low body temperature when it was found in January by biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, FWC said. The kitten also was unresponsive.
“We want to give any panther the best opportunity to survive in the wild,” said FWC veterinarian Mark Cunningham. “But clearly this kitten was in poor condition and almost certainly would have died without intervention.”
The biologists, who were doing research in the Collier County refuge, took the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples, the FWC said. Veterinarians and staff there provided 24-hour care.
The kitten is now at Lowry Park Zoo, and he is the fourth kitten and the eighth panther to be cared for at the Tampa zoo. The zoo is home to one of those panthers, Calusa, a 6-year-old female.
The young panther will not be placed in an exhibit. Once it is old enough, it will be transferred to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where visitors can see him.
The kitten will not be released into the wild because he did not learn survival skills from his mother, FWC said.