The Florida panther is the last of the Puma genus known to be breeding in the eastern United States. The panther population, while increased from a low of 20 to 30 adults in the 1980s, is still facing numerous threats from vehicle collisions to habitat loss. Yet this is also a cat on the rise with an estimate of up to 230 adult panthers and their additional offspring in south Florida.
As the panther population returns from the brink of extinction, their conservation success brings both controversy and new opportunities. To navigate some of the nuanced issues surrounding this iconic cat, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to create Florida Panthers, a conservation-focused exhibit featuring a publicly-viewable panther habitat with educational messaging including action steps to help panthers like driving posted speed limits in panther zones as well as a behind-the-scenes rehabilitation area to provide short term care for orphaned or injured panthers.
In the time since its opening in 2015, Florida Panthers has become the home to Uno, a non-releasable panther that was permanently blinded after being struck by two blasts from a shotgun. The rehabilitation facility has also taken in several orphaned panther kittens. Educational components of the new exhibit engage guests in a balanced discussion of both the challenges and benefits of living with large predators.
As the population of panthers and people continue to grow, partnerships like this and with large landowners and ranchers will be key to both educate other Floridians and care for the state’s wildlife.
More information on the Florida panther.
Uno, a Florida panther that was blinded
by shotgun blasts.
Athena, one of the Florida panther kittens that received care in the Zoo's rehab facility that one day may be introduced to live with Uno.
How You Can Help:
Along with efforts by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, many organizations are actively seeking support for their Florida panther programs and projects. Check out many of them on our Partners page for more information. The best way to help is to join them in educating others about Florida panthers or make a donation. And remember to drive the posted speed in panther zones and get your Protect the Panther License Plate.