Prismacolor Pencil on Bristol Board
Florida Panthers – Critically endagered – fewer then 100 remain in the wild
Role of Conservation Organizations in Panther Recovery
Conservation organizations including Defenders of Wildlife are helping with panther recovery in many ways:
protecting habitat from development, and preserving habitat as conservation lands
advocating for wildlife considerations in transportation planning and installation of wildlife underpasses
reducing panther mortality on roads urging agencies to use sound science in development planning and panther management
restoring panthers to their historic range of the southeastern United States
promoting education and raising awareness of panthers and their recovery needs
Other conservation organizations working on panther recovery include: The National Wildlife Federation, The Florida Wildlife Federation, The Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and The Florida Panther Society, Inc.
With fewer than 100 panthers remaining in the southeastern United States, it may be tempting to do no more than attempt to hang on to what is left. However research has shown that re-establishing additional populations of panthers reduces the threat of extinction by:
Expanding capacity for genetic diversity within the subspecies, as well as the overall Puma concolor species
Reducing vulnerability to unpredictable events such as disease outbreak, environmental toxins, and weather catastrophes
Increasing the panther population’s ability to persist in the long-term
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida Panther Recovery Plan includes establishing two additional panther populations, which is based on scientific research that shows that 3 populations are essential to recovery of this endangered wild cat.
Even though the persecution and hunting that brought them near to extinction ended in the mid-1950s, panthers have continued to face many threats. Today, the largest threats are vehicle collision and habitat loss to development.
Roads are becoming more deadly to panthers each year. And misguided development continues to destroy and fragment panther habitat.
Panthers also face an uncertain threat from public perception. Full recovery of this endangered big cat may depend on the public’s ability to learn to live with panthers again.
Florida panthers have had some things go their way. In 2004, the Federal Court ruled in favor of the National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation, and The Florida Panther Society, and revoked a Florida Rock Industry mine permit that would have destroyed over 5000 acres of panther habitat.
The permit was issued based on a “no jeopardy” opinion reached by the USFWS. The Judge found that the permit did not consider the project’s cumulative impact on the overall loss of panther habitat.
Status of the Florida Panther
The Florida panther was federally listed as an endangered species in 1967. Panthers are protected under other legal measures including:
International: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix 1.
Florida: Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act; and Florida Administrative Code.
Georgia: Protection of Endangered, Threatened, Rare of Unusual Species; and Georgia Code.
The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for wildlife, plants, and fish that are on the brink of extinction. It includes one of the most effective ways to protect species, which is to protect the places where they live.