How did a wild mountain lion living in Griffith Park end up killing the oldest koala in the Los Angeles Zoo? That is the same question that wildlife officials are asking themselves after the 14-year-old koala was found mauled—but not eaten—near its enclosure recently. The alleged culprit is none other than P-22, the most famous mountain lion in southern California.
“We’ve looked at the GPS evidence, and of course talked to the zoo and looked at the enclosure, and it’s really inconclusive,” Kate Kuykendall with the National Park Service told ABC 7. “He was in the area, but our GPS points are separated by two hours, so we can’t say for sure.”
Black and white security footage also placed P-22 at the scene, and it has already been confirmed previously that the cougar was capable of entering the zoo, somehow negotiating an 8-foot fence topped with barbed wire. On one occasion, employees believed that the mountain lion had been hunting raccoons near the zoo, which is located next to Griffith Park.
You can watch security footage of P-22 taken by the zoo below:
Mountain lion P-22 believed to have killed koala at LA ZooLos Angeles Zoo officials released surveillance video of P-22, Griffith Park’s famous mountain lion, roaming zoo grounds around the same time Killarney the koala disappeared. She was later found mauled to death. So did P-22 do it? abc7.la/1WbONI4
Posted by ABC7 on Thursday, March 10, 2016
Officials are also investigating whether a bobcat or another predator carried out the killing. P-22 however, remains the prime suspect. The mountain lion has been living in the park since at least 2012. Officials believe that the cat was originally from the Santa Monica Mountains, where a group of highly isolated mountain lions currently call home. Remarkably, P-22 managed to cross two freeways and enter Griffith Park. Since then, the large male cat was considered the park’s unofficial mascot. In 2014, he developed mange and had to be captured by National Park Service scientists to be treated.
Now some are saying that it is time for the cougar to move on. Altough P-22 is very popular with park visitors, many have long voiced their concerns that the mountain was dangerous and should not be allowed inside the park.
“Regardless of what predator killed the koala, this tragedy just emphasizes the need to contemplate relocating P-22 to a safer, more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction,” LA City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell told the Los Angeles Times.
Experts say that P-22 is currently searching for a mate and if tasked with leaving the park on his own, may be killed trying to cross the various freeways that crisscross the area. Relocation will be done by either the National Park Service or state wildlife officials.
Fans of the mountain lion however, say P-22 has no history of aggression towards humans, and that cougars are part of Griffith Park’s natural habitat. Officials are still investigating how the koala, named Killarney, died.
Image courtesy National Park Service