Trio of Rescued Mountain Lion Cubs Now a Family at Home at Oakland Zoo’s Upcoming California Trail
Three (separately found) orphaned mountain lion cubs rescued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and brought to Oakland Zoo last December are now officially home in their brand-new, expansive habitat – one of the largest mountain lion exhibits in the world – at Oakland Zoo’s upcoming California Trail expansion, open to the public this June.
The cubs, now named Coloma (female), Toro and Silverado (males), spent their first few months under quarantine and 24/7 care at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital, as they recovered from their critically-ill and malnourished states upon arrival. As their health improved and they grew a bit older, introductions were slowly made to one another. They immediately bonded and have now formed a strong family unit. Zookeepers say that the youngest, Coloma, who was only 6-8 weeks old and near death when she arrived on December 23, and unable to stand or walk from such severe dehydration and starvation, is now ‘the boss’ of her adopted brothers who provide her constant affection and attention.
Upon introduction, the mountain lions immediately took to their new habitat, climbing into their natural comfort of multiple large oak trees. Preferring to be more active at night, cameras have shown them rough-housing in their caves, resting platforms, and grassy hillsides in the dark hours.
“It’s been a long road to recovery for each of these orphaned puma, and a very emotional time for all of us who have helped them become normal young cats. Sometimes shy, other times wacky, and often sleepy, its fills my heart to see them act like mountain lions,” said Darren Minier, Assistant Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Research at Oakland Zoo.
As determined by the CDFW, these three cubs could not be released back in to the wild once their rehabilitation was complete; they would have no chance of survival. Unfortunately, they need their mothers to be effectively taught to hunt and survive. In the wild, even when the mother is present, the survival rate of mountain lion cubs is slim. Mountain lions are becoming critically endangered in the California, often struck by cars or shot when seen as a threat in encroaching urban areas and developments. Oakland Zoo partners with the conservation organizations like the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Bay Area Puma Project to try and help conserve the species in the wild.
“Mountain lion cubs need up to two years with their mom in order to learn how to survive and thrive. Human survival training is not possible. The Bay Area Puma Project supports Oakland Zoo’s efforts to care for pumas that cannot be released into the wild,” said Zara McDonald, Executive Director of the Bay Area Puma Project.
Oakland Zoo helped found BACAT (Bay Area Cougar Action Team) in 2013, an alliance with the Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation, to partner with the CDFW save mountain lions caught in the human-wildlife conflict.
Coloma (named after the city she was found in) was found roadside in Coloma (El Dorado County) in the early morning hours of December 21st. The couple that discovered her reported she remained in the same spot for hours, and when they finally attempted to approach her, the cub attempted to drag herself away but was unable from weakness. The couple contacted Sierra Wildlife Rescue, who in turn contacted CDFW. Her ‘brothers’, Toro and Silverado, were both found in early December in Southern California’s Orange County area.
“Each of these lions represents incredible conservation challenges in the wild, such as human-wildlife conflict and lack of corridors and highway crossings for lions and other wildlife. These three, now thriving, individuals will inspire and motivate changes in budgets, policies and urban development plans that affect lion health and biodiversity. With each visit to see them, our California Trail community will participate in their own actions that will help California mountain lions and people co-exist,” said Amy Gotliffe, Director of Conservation at Oakland Zoo.
At Oakland Zoo, the cub trio will be ambassadors for human-wildlife conflict education, thus helping ensure the survival of their counterparts in the wild. Their new habitat, designed to mimic their natural setting, is likely the largest mountain lion habitat in the world and will be open to the public in late June 2018 as part of the Zoo’s upcoming California Trail expansion. The mountain lions habitat is a covered habitat, boomerang-shaped with netting reaching 50 feet in the air, with mature oak trees in which the mountain lions perch, rest, and climb. Rocky outcroppings that create caves allow them the choice to rest and hide if they prefer.
In addition to access to their night house in the evenings, they will soon have access to the expansion area, which will include additional trees and platforms for climbing and resting. All features within the habitat focus on attributes of the lions’ natural environment.
Oakland Zoo’s (managed by the Conservation Society of California) goal is to educate visitors about wildlife in California and inspire people to take action for the future of the state’s wildlife and resources.
Oakland Zoo, home to more than 700 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community to take action for wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.