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People Want To Tear Down This Rare Cat's Home To Build Malls

There are only about 200 Florida panthers left β€” and this could kill them.

The Florida panther is one of the rarest wild cats on the planet and also one of the most beloved β€” the cat is Florida's official animal β€” but a new plan could bring extinction much closer.

Endangered Florida panther
FWC

This endangered cat, a subspecies of the cougar, depends on having enough habitat to survive, but panther land is being imminently threatened by a massive new development proposal

Forests would be razed for housing developments, shopping centers and industrial areas for sand and gravel mining, bringing in an estimated 300,000 new residents and creating several new small cities. Of the 40,000 acres that would be used for this project, about 20,000 cut into the Florida panther's home in the wild, where they roam and hunt.

Endangered Florida panther crossing sign
Shutterstock

It's estimated that the remaining population of Florida panthers hovers just around 200. The biggest threat to their survival? Habitat destruction and fragmentation.

"The panther barely has a toehold in Florida now," Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, a nonprofit that advocates for native wildlife, told The Dodo. "To continue this type of development flies in the face of common sense."

Endangered Florida panther
Shutterstock

People are also worried about the extensive roads that will need to be built for the new developments. Florida panthers are all too often hit by cars and killed. Most recently, a 9-year-old female panther was killed by a car in December, and 29 of these cats were killed last year, mostly because of collisions with vehicles. 

"The best available science tells us the panther needs all its available habitat to survive and ultimately recover,” Amber Crooks, environmental policy manager of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, told The Guardian.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) needs to approve the plan before development can begin, so there's still time to push back. But giving people a chance to speak up for the panther has been another challenge. Last year, the public had 45 days to comment on the plan, which felt all too short to conservationists when it ended in December. Some conservation groups filed to extend the public comment period — and were turned down.

Endangered Florida panther in wildlife camera
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

The plan could be approved by the government as early as April β€” and fighting for the panther's rights to the land is running short on time. 

You can voice your opinion about the plan by contacting the FWS. You can also share the news and encourage your friends and family to speak up about the Florida panther.