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Philadelphia Zoo Announces Arrival of Two Orphaned Puma Siblings

Philadelphia Zoo is now caring for two orphaned puma cubs that arrived at the Zoo on July 7.

The cubs, one male and one female, estimated to be 19-20 weeks old, were rescued in Kalama, Washington, on June 28, 2023 and were cared for by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife experts before being flown across the country to the Zoo. The cubs are currently living behind-the-scenes inside the Zoo’s on-site Animal Hospital as they complete their quarantine period before moving to Big Cat Falls in September. They will NOT be on exhibit or visible to the public until then. Philadelphia Zoo was chosen as the new, permanent home for the cubs because of our expertise in caring for this species.

“This placement is crucial because without the intervention of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Philadelphia Zoo, they would likely not survive on their own and without their mother,” says Vice President of Animal Well-Being Rachel Metz. “Part of Philadelphia Zoo’s mission is to inspire action to protect wildlife and habitats. These animals will serve as ambassadors to educate our guests on the importance of apex predators and the challenges that revolve around humans and our relationships with predators in the wild.”

“Our keepers have been working in overdrive to come up with plans for socialization and training. Welfare is our top priority so the puma siblings will successfully acclimate to their new home,” says Curator of Carnivores and Ungulates Maggie Morse. “We are so thankful to our keeper and veterinary teams who have stepped up to give these cubs the best care possible, and we can’t wait for the public to meet them and learn their story.”

Caring for Elbroch & Olympia

Our staff aptly named the cubs Elbroch and Olympia. Our male is named Elbroch (pronounced el-brock) in honor of Mark Elbroch who is the leading puma researcher for Panthera, a conservation organization devoted to the protection of the world’s 40 species of wild cats. Our female is named Olympia after the state capital of Washington where the cubs were rescued. You can tell the two apart by their size. Elbroch is a little bit bigger than his sister Olympia. He’s confident and not afraid to explore and Olympia follows along, looking to her brother for reassurance.

The puma cubs are currently under the care of our veterinary team. Before their arrival, wildlife veterinarians in Washington determined the cubs were 30-40% underweight for their developmental age. The Zoo’s veterinary team is providing customized care that includes feeding a specialized dietary plan designed by the Zoo’s animal nutritionist. As the cubs settle in, the veterinary team will perform full physical exams, blood work, cardiac and abdominal ultrasound exams, and administer necessary vaccines. The cubs will undergo a quarantine period away from resident Zoo animals for a minimum of 30 days. Animal keepers from the Zoo’s carnivore team will join the quarantine care team and begin to assist in care and socialization of the cubs.

There is no specific breeding season for pumas, but most births in North America occur in late winter and early spring with two to four cubs born in a litter. Cubs are completely dependent on mom when they are born and are covered in spots that fade as they grow, disappearing when they’re about six months old. Cubs typically nurse for three months or more, but can begin eating meat at six weeks.

Pumas in the Wild

Pumas are found across North and South America from Alaska to Chile, and have over 200 names because they inhabit the largest geographical region of any other cat in the world. Other names for them include cougar, mountain lion, and panther. They are classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) but still face threats in the wild including habitat loss and fragmentation, road mortality and disease.

Pumas have the largest hind legs of any feline species, allowing them to jump huge distances while hunting. Adults can leap horizontally more than 20 feet and 18 feet vertically. Pumas can catch prey as large as a moose and as small as a mouse. Their fur ranges in color from a light buff to a dark reddish brown. The back of their ears and tips of their tails are black. Pumas are not considered big cats because they cannot roar. Instead, they have a high-pitched trill vocalization that sounds like a bird.

This pair is not the first orphaned pumas the Zoo has cared for. In 2005, cubs Dakota, Sage and Cinnabar came to the Zoo after they were orphaned in the wild in South Dakota. All three have since passed away.

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