LOS ANGELES — A mountain lion miraculously surviving in the urban mountains around L.A. is believed to have breached a 9-foot fence at the Los Angeles Zoo and mauled an 18-pound koala at night, officials said Thursday, March 10.
The Australia-born koala, named Killarney, was the only one of the zoo’s 11 koalas who often dared to leave her tree at night and roam the pen’s ground, which apparently made her easy prey for the young male cougar that researchers call “P-22,” officials said.
The big cat was seen on zoo grounds in surveillance footage during the overnight hours between March 2 and March 3. The koala was noticed missing the next morning, said John Lewis, director of Los Angeles Zoo.
“We were actually surprised that he actually came into the zoo,” Lewis said. “We have security that monitors the site at night.”
The zoo sits in 4,210-acre Griffith Park, part of the Santa Monica Mountains that bisect Los Angeles, and the chaparral is home to many predators, including bobcats and coyotes. The zoo released a video and a still photo from that night that depicted P-22 on the prowl. The mountain lion wears a tracking collar, placed by biologists who have been studying P-22 in the wild since 2012.
P-22 became famous when he was photographed beneath the Hollywood sign by a camera trap. The image made the December 2013 issue of National Geographic. Since then, the lion has become something of a Hollywood celebrity. He even has its own Facebook and Instagram pages.
The National Park Service said it’s not conclusive that P-22 killed the koala because they couldn’t fully track its whereabouts that night. Biologists found a two-hour gap in the mountain lion GPS tracking data, a spokeswoman said.
“It could have been him, or it also could have been another carnivore like a bobcat, for example,” said National Park Service spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall.
Mountain lions usually prey on mule deer and sometimes coyotes and raccoons, Kuykendall said.