Defenders of Wildlife Celebrates the Florida Panther on World Wildlife Day
Saturday, March 3 marks the UN World Wildlife Day (WWD), an annual celebration of wildlife and plants across the globe. This year’s theme is “Big cats: predators under threat,” to raise awareness about the threats to big cats and to make a call to action for conservation. The theme is particularly fitting for Florida panthers in the United States, which live in increasingly fragmented habitat in one of the fastest-developing states in the nation. A tragic 24 panthers were lost to vehicle collisions last year, and 34 panthers were killed on Florida roads in 2016.
However, a victory for the Florida panther subspecies was achieved in 2017. For the first time since the Florida panther recovery effort began in 1967, a female panther gave birth to kittens in habitat north of the Caloosahatchee river, which was previously a barrier to the expansion of the breeding population.
Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark issued the following statement:
“The Florida panther is truly a big cat under threat, but it is also a symbol of hope. This World Wildlife Day, we’re commemorating the hard work executed by wildlife managers, scientists and advocates that made the Florida panther’s milestone possible. This species progressed despite the odds because of the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act.
“Florida panthers are not alone in their need for protection and recovery efforts. Jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundis and Canada lynx are also feline species struggling to survive here in the United States. Defenders of Wildlife is committed to fighting for big cats so that the Florida panther’s recent success story can become one of many for big cat species here and around the world.”
- Defenders of Wildlife takes a leading role in Florida to protect and restore panther habitat, reducing panther deaths on roads and helping people coexist with panthers.
- Florida panthers nearly disappeared from the wild before they were federally listed as endangered in 1967. A female panther was spotted on the north side of the Caloosahatchee river in late 2016, and gave birth to kittens in 2017. Before 2017, female panthers and kittens had not been seen north of the Caloosahatchee river in more than 40 years.
- Today, habitat loss and fragmentation are the greatest human-caused threat to Florida panthers, along with vehicle collisions.
- Panthers, like other predator species such as grizzly bears, jaguars and wolves, benefit from coexistence efforts by ranchers and landowners to keep people and panthers alike safe.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.