Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saving the Florida Panther

The Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) had almost disappeared. Of this subspecies of puma – also known as cougar or mountain lion – only 20 were still alive at the end of the 20th century. Today 120 to 160 Florida panthers roam their habitat in the south-west of Florida.

In 1967 the Florida panther was added to the list of endangered species. But in 1989 natural park land was put aside for the animals, and in 1995 the US Fish and Wildlife Service established a plan to “genetically restore” the species. Eight Texas puma females (Puma concolor stanleyana), the closest subspecies to the panther, were brought to the park. Seven years later, when the conservationists deemed sufficient time had passed for the Florida panther population to be revived, they discovered three of the females had died but captured the other five to return them to Texas.

By 2003, the number of Florida panthers had tripled. Today the population is estimated at 120 to 160 panthers. What’s more, in the 24 September 2010 issue of Science magazine in an article entitled, “Genetic Restoration of the Florida Panther”, the authors note that the specific morphological characteristics of the species have been maintained, despite the introduction of new genes. A success story all around!