An 11-year-old cougar that was rescued from the exotic pet trade years ago is headed to a new life. But before "Phoenix" is released to an exotic animal lodge in Texas, the cougar could spend up to a year at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.
Pending final paperwork, the cougar will be sent to Great Bend next month, Zoo Director Scott Gregory said. It will need some "down time" away from public eyes for a few weeks, but after that people should be able to see it for several months while a refuge in Texas is being completed.
"The cougar will be in quarantine for a month or two, then placed into our main collection at which time zoological society members will have the first chance to meet him," Gregory said.
Great Bend was recommended as the temporary home for the cougar by the State of Kansas Wildlife Division and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which the zoo is working to gain accreditation with.
The panther comes from Panthera Research. The exotic animal refuge in Texas is being created to address the growing problem of the exotic pet trade. For some animals, the refuge may someday act as a wildlife rehab way station.
According to information forwarded to Gregory from the state, Phoenix the cougar was rescued from the exotic pet trade when he was about 2 weeks old, and came into the agency’s care at six weeks of age. "He is a remarkable cat and very possibly the most intelligent animal we have ever worked with and has over 93 learned behaviors trained in a modified Karen Pryor-Jean Piaget positive reinforcement style. He is in fantastic overall health for an 11-year-old cat with the exception of DJD (degenerative joint disease) in his front elbows which is treated with Meloxicam and Cosequin SE, which he responds to very well."
Gregory considers the recommendation from AZA a good sign that the zoo is on track with its application from accreditation. Next week representatives from several Kansas zoos that already have accreditation will come to Great Bend to conduct a mock AZA inspection.