Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
The endangered Florida panther is finally getting the spotlight it deserves — it’s making a comeback after teetering on the brink of extinction. Featured in the April issue of National Geographic, the species bares its teeth and shows the world what successful species recovery is all about. Aggressive hunting and development left the population at less than 30 individuals by the 1970s. Today there are approximately 200 Florida panthers roaming a stretch of contiguous land south of the Caloosahatchee River. Now, conservationists are working to find a balance between Florida’s growing human population and the needs of these amazing creatures.
Why This Matters: After the recent record number of manatee deaths in Florida, we wrote about the state’s biodiversity crisis. Under the looming shadow of a global “mass extinction” event, 25% of 1,200 surveyed Florida species are at risk of losing 50% of their populations by 2050. Rising sea levels, pollution, and industrial development have hurt coastal biomes and communities in the state, but for inland animals like Florida panthers, suburban sprawl and growing human presence shrank their range, isolating them from other populations of North American big cats. The plight of the Florida panther illustrates exactly why President Biden’s pledge to conserve 30% of the U.S. by 2030 is so important.
A Panther Pilgrimage
Big cats, like their smaller cousins, are notoriously solitary. Each cat needs their own territory, up to 200 square miles, to roam and hunt. But the presence of human infrastructure like highways and overpasses, pushing north and reconnecting big cat habitats is a grueling task. Conservationists have worked hard to set up a network of protected habitats, called the Florida Wildlife Corridor, on both public and private land, and it’s been working. In 2016, scientists spotted a female north of the Caloosahatchee River for the first time in nearly 50 years. Now, experts estimate that at least a couple dozen Florida panthers live north of the river. Interbreeding with other Puma species sustained “gene flow,” an influx of diverse genes that kept the species healthy and prevented harmful inbreeding. Now, this isolation is the final major hurdle for the wellbeing of the Florida panther.
Experts say, however, that to ensure the survival of the species panthers must make it further north, but expanding the Florida Wildlife Corridor requires more conservation funding to prevent potential corridor pathways from becoming roads and suburban developments. Conservationists hope to secure the Everglades as a protected habitat for the panthers. The Everglades provide water to 10 million Floridians and are in the direct recovery path of the expanding panther population. Conservationists say that further protections for the Everglades as an endangered species habitat is a win-win-win, and not only protects the Florida panther but the ecosystem and the water supply to local communities.
In Living Color
The National Geographic feature, written by Douglas Main, not only includes the species’ amazing conservation story, but also breathtaking photographs by Carlton Ward, Jr. tracking the climactic return of panthers to their old home turf. “It’s one of the most dramatic conservation success stories in U.S. history,” said Ward. His photos capture victorious conservation moments like the birth of three Florida panther cubs, whom veterinarians supplied with immunity boosters to help them grow big and strong. But alongside those beautiful moments, the photos tell a story of a species struggling to survive a world that paved over them. Solemn images of cats hit by cars and plagued by a mysterious neurological disorder remind us of the grim reality these animals face. Sparking hope are the numerous people in Ward’s images, passionately working to save the Florida panther.
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Almost 1,000 of Florida’s manatees have died as of Oct.1 this year, setting a tragic record for the most deaths in a year, with two months left to go. Deaths were largely caused by starvation — the predator-less sea cows typically spend hours a day eating seagrass, but declining […]
Do you have a good eye? Are you surprisingly good at Where’s Waldo and like Walruses? If so, we have great opportunity for you! The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is seeking volunteers to help count Atlantic walruses…from space. Sea ice is retreating fast as global temperatures rise, forcing walruses to crowd on smaller floes […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer At a UN conference in Kunming, China, President Xi Jinping set aside $230 million to form a fund that preserves biodiversity in developing countries. This announcement was made at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity talks (COP15) which are dedicated to preserving delicate ecosystems and preventing plants and animals […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.