Abandoned panther kitten recovering at Tampa zoo

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TAMPA, Fla. - A team of panther biologists rescued an approximately week-old Florida panther kitten at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County in mid-January, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Biologists from FWC and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida discovered the kitten while conducting research. The 1-pound male kitten had a dangerously low body temperature and was nonresponsive.

“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.”

Biologists transported the kitten to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples, where veterinarians and staff performed life-saving measures. Although his condition improved quickly, he still required 24-hour care.

Once the kitten was strong enough to travel, biologists transported him to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo. The young male is the fourth kitten and eighth panther to receive rehabilitation at the zoo.

Because this kitten was so young at the time of rescue, biologists say he will not learn survival skills from his mother and therefore cannot be released into the wild.

Although he will not return to the wild population, this panther will help to raise awareness and aid with potential research efforts. Initially the kitten will not be on public display but, once old enough, he will be transported to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where park visitors may observe him.

More photos from the FWC can be seen on their Flickr page.