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Farewell to P-22, an animal star from Los Angeles | Science

P-22 in one of the multiple captures of the remote cameras that followed its passage through the hills of Los Angeles
P-22 in one of the multiple captures of the remote cameras that followed its passage through the hills of Los AngelesHANDOUT (via REUTERS)

Hollywood has lost this Saturday one of its most beloved celebrities. The cougar known by the unattractive name of P-22 was euthanized this morning, days after being captured in the backyard of a private residence in the Los Feliz neighborhood, in the heart of Los Angeles. It was the sad end for a cat that became famous for precisely that: living for more than a decade with the wild urban density of the Californian city.

“This really hurts,” Chuck Bonham, the state department official who broke the news, said this morning. The press conference was full of veterinarians and specialists who announced the outcome of P-22 with wet eyes. The cat, who was 12 years old and was by far the best known among a hundred specimens in southern California, “went to sleep” at 09:00 this Saturday at the San Diego Zoo. The decision to euthanize him followed several health problems, including a fractured skull, damage to various organs and a torn diaphragm.

Authorities believe that the cougar’s problems worsened after it was recently run over in one of the areas where it roamed, the Hollywood Hills and Griffith Park, one of the most important green lungs within the city. A few days ago, the department in charge of wildlife received an anonymous call warning about the incident. Doctors at the San Diego Zoo also discovered that P-22 had liver and kidney complications.

The cougar was captured Monday in a family’s backyard. Specialists determined that he had lost a quarter of his weight, reflecting his increasing health problems. However, P-22 had become the object of interest of the authorities in recent weeks. After years of peaceful cohabitation, his behavior began to become erratic. In early November, he killed Piper, a Chihuahua dog who was walking with a dog walker. He had previously attacked another canine in the Hollywood Hills area. The local government then issued a statement stating that an attack on a human was unlikely. But, just in case, the experts quickened the pace of their search.

Just as Snowflake did in Barcelona, ​​Sandra the orangutan in Buenos Aires or Tohui the panda in Mexico City, P-22 managed to merge its wild features with an urban identity. Unlike the animals mentioned, the puma lived in freedom, moving in an area of ​​just over two hectares. He showed scientists that he was able to navigate the 405 and 101 freeways, two busy thoroughfares in the city.

The P-22 puma was captured in the Los Feliz neighborhood, last Monday.
The P-22 puma was captured in the Los Feliz neighborhood, last Monday.PA

The origin of P-22 is a mystery, despite the fact that his street activities have always been followed by Angelenos. The animal was discovered in February 2012 by Miguel Ordeñana, a 29-year-old biologist who worked for the forest service. One morning, while downloading the images captured by motion-activated cameras, the scientist discovered an imposing young puma weighing about 54 kilos. More than a name, they gave it a number, 22, the position among the number of cats that have been studying since 2002.

In the images, P-22 is unmistakable because he wears a necklace around his neck. This was installed by a team of scientists after the discovery of Ordeñana. More than a fashion accessory, it’s an artifact that allowed wildlife specialists to track the lion’s footsteps as it moved through some of California’s most densely populated neighborhoods, like Silver Lake.

The necklace allowed us to understand a little about the life of the puma, who, before incorporating dogs into his diet, ate raccoons and deer in the extensive green areas of the park. The National History Museum in Los Angeles offers an exhibit on the wildlife of these animals, which takes a lot of information from the GPS tracking that was done on the animal.

“If you see P-22, walk slowly in the opposite direction and keep your distance. Go back to your house or your car. Never run away or duck because he will think you look like prey. Don’t stare at him,” Ordeñana explained last March to a journalist who asked what someone who came across him on the road should do. “He has proven time and time again that he doesn’t care about people,” replied the biologist.

The local media used to publish images of their stellar appearances on video surveillance devices of private residences. But the best images of the animal, like the one that accompanies this text, were captured by cameras placed in Griffith Park by Odeñana and other biologists. These captured, just in 2019 and for the first time, the puma making sounds. One of the most famous photographs of him, which would arouse the jealousy of any influencer, shows him walking downhill at night, with the elegant pose of the big cats and with the Hollywood sign behind him. It’s a legendary image for one of Star City’s most famous figures.

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