A bill that was recently introduced in the Florida state legislature that would have allowed five golf courses to be constructed in Florida panther habitat has been withdrawn. Due to public protests over the clearly pro-development bill, it was pulled after just one week. One of the biggest threats to the very small and precarious population of wild Florida panthers is habitat loss. Obviously, creating five golf courses in their habitat would have been very damaging to them as it would have eaten up already dwindling space for them to live in, and as a very mobile animal they need quite a bit. New golf courses would not have only further reduced their territory, they would have introduced human-made chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers, loud noises from mowers, and blowers, extra human foot traffic, and more automobiles. Vehicle collisions are one of the top causes of mortality to Florida’s panthers. Last year, in one three-day period, five percent of the total number of wild panthers was lost due to vehicle mortalities. In 2010, about sixteen wild panthers lost their lives after being struck by cars.
Several months ago, because of the growing losses and increasing public concern about the critically endangered cats, construction on a new wildlife crossing was started. Wildlife underpasses can keep wild animals off highways and interstates, because they allow the animals to walk under the road surfaces where they can’t be struck by swiftly moving vehicles. The project for Interstate 75 cost about one million dollars. Destroying panther habitat with new golf courses, and disturbing them with increased numbers of people just to go golfing, makes no sense in light of the fact the state is trying to help the besieged with such underpass projects. Though it may seem quite obvious, a comprehensive strategy is required if a very endangered species is going to have any chance at survival. Besides, does Florida actually need more golf courses?
Very fortunately, the public sensibly halted the needless and harmful development project. (Over-development actually also threatens the quality of life for people as well, because it often results in stressful conditions like overcrowding, traffic jams, and urban blight.) At least in this single case, the people stood up for panthers and defeated the profiteering developers. Hopefully Florida will be able to avoid a situation where the only new births of panthers happens in a laboratory environment, such as these rare african kittens that were grown from frozen embryos.
Image Credit: Public Domain