TAMPA (CBSMiami) – Two endangered Florida panther kittens are now in the caring hands of experts at ZooTampa after their mother began suffering from an unknown neurological disorder and had to be euthanized.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is investigating the mystery disorder detected in some Florida panthers and bobcats, brought the kittens to the zoo.
According to the FWC Facebook page, “While veterinarians cannot predict to what degree the kittens may become affected, they are currently active, playful and healthy overall.”
FWC officials said the momma panther had to be euthanized because she could not walk or care for her two male kittens. The kittens were rescued in early July when they were about two weeks old and would not have survived in the wild on their own, according to FWC.
When FWC trail cameras showed the mother panther getting worse, the decision was made to remove her from the wild in October.
“After a thorough examination, the decision was made to humanely euthanize the panther due to the animal’s poor condition and the unlikelihood of recovery or improvement,” the FWC said. “The panther underwent complete necropsy, and the results of extensive diagnostic testing are pending.”
Now the kittens are nearly five months old and are being cared for at ZooTampa, one of the top panther rehabilitation facilities in the state, in collaboration with the BluePearl animal Specialty Hospital of Florida and the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Once the kittens are out of quarantine and cleared by the zoo’s medical team, they will be put on public view as “ambassadors for their species.” The kittens will remain at the zoo until a permanent home is found.
Trail camera footage has shown nine other panthers, mostly kittens, and four adult bobcats, showing similar symptoms, which include varying degrees of rear leg weakness that lead to difficulty walking.
WATCH TRAIL CAMERA FOOTAGE HERE:
In August, the FWC confirmed neurological damage in one panther and one bobcat after necropsies.
Panthers are one of Florida’s iconic native species and are considered endangered.
There are between 120 to 230 adult panthers in the population, according to FWC estimates.