Study: Scientists helped improve outlook for Florida panthers
Friday, September 24, 2010
Media contact: Carli Segelson, 727-896-8626
A paper published in the journal "Science" on
Friday focuses on the long-term efforts of the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partner agencies to
improve the health of the Florida panther population. Through a
process called genetic restoration, scientists have helped increase
the population of 20 to 30 animals in the early 1990s to the
current population of at least 100.
Genetic restoration involves adding new genetic
material into a small, isolated population that has suffered the
ill effects of inbreeding. Before genetic restoration, many
panthers were diagnosed with heart problems, fertility issues, and
low levels of genetic variation. To address these problems,
scientists introduced eight female pumas from Texas to breed within
the dwindling Florida panther population in 1995.
"We are excited by the success of this project,"
said Dr. Dave Onorato, FWC biologist. "We now have a larger,
healthier population that more closely resembles what we would have
expected to find in the once-widespread Florida panther population
before it became reduced in numbers and isolated in South
This project has played an important role in the
improvements to the health and size of the panther population in
Florida. However, other factors, such as land preservation,
wildlife underpasses and cooperative agreements between private
landowners and non-governmental organizations also contributed to
the population increase and will continue to play an important role
in the recovery of panthers.
Genetic restoration of the Florida panther has been
a multi-agency effort involving the FWC, the National Cancer
Institute, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and many non-governmental organizations. These
agencies worked with world-renowned experts in conservation
genetics and the management of large carnivores to produce the Plan
for Genetic Restoration in 1994.
Funding for panther research and management
conducted by the FWC comes exclusively from fees collected when
Florida residents purchase "Protect the Florida panther" specialty
license plates. People wishing to replace a license plate with one
of these tags can do so at any tax collector's office.
To explore other ways to protect the Florida
panther, go to MyFWC.com/GetInvolved and check out the gift ideas.
To find out more about the Florida panther, visit www.floridapanthernet.org.