The keepers at Los Angeles Zoo did a headcount of their koalas last Thursday and discovered that one was missing. The body of the mauled koala was found some 400 yards away from the enclosure, reports NBC Los Angeles. After reviewing video surveillance footage from that night, the crew spotted P-22 and believe this famous urban mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park is likely the culprit.
It's believed that P-22 had been getting into the zoo for about a month, though zoo officials still aren't sure how he is getting in or out. It's possible P-22 is hunting the raccoons that get into the zoo. One of the benefits of living among urban predators is that they offer excellent pest control. The only problem is that P-22 seems to have decided koala was a welcome change in the menu, or perhaps simply an easier meal than a feisty raccoon.
(Meanwhile, P-22 issued a comment, saying only "#pleadingthefifth" via Facebook.)
It's not unheard of for predators to get into zoos. Earlier this year, an endangered gazelle was killed by a pack of coyotes at Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Whereas the Smithsonian Zoo decided to hunt down the coyotes that killed the gazelle, the L.A. Zoo is taking a more practical approach of coexistence, recognizing that P-22 is just being a mountain lion and that it's the zoo's responsibility to protect its charges from nearby predators.
"There's a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home. So we'll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he's learned to adapt to us," John Lewis, director of the zoo, told NBC Los Angeles. Part of this strategy includes temporarily removing the koalas from their public habitats and moving smaller animals to their nighttime quarters when the zoo is closed.
While Lewis does not believe P-22 should be relocated, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell voiced the opposite opinion: "As much as we love P-22 at Griffith Park, we know the park is not ultimately suitable for him. We should consider resettling him in the environment he needs." However, Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service disagrees, telling NBC, "This is not a situation where we can get rid of the native wildlife and not expect this to happen again."
Figuring out how to coexist with urban wildlife is much more effective strategy in the long run, not to mention much less expensive. Taking native predators out of an area only leaves that area open for new predators to enter and also creates an ecological imbalance in that area.
To dig deeper into that concept, here's a TED talk that discusses P-22 as well as the need to coexist with urban wildlife: