POWELL, Ohio — Three orphaned mountain lions rescued from the wildfires that devastated parts of California will soon head to their new home at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
One of the mountain lions, named Captain Cal by firefighters, was found limping down a burned-out road in Redding on Sept. 20. Nearly 47 days after he was rushed to the Oakland Zoo’s veterinary hospital, the severely burned mountain lion is now fully recovered.
After multiple feedings, pain medication, daily bandage changes and round-the-clock care, Captain Cal will join two other female cubs, also orphaned and treated after the California wildfires, at the Columbus Zoo.
Like Captain Cal, the two female cubs were orphaned by the Complex fire in August when they were only 3-4 weeks old.
In the coming weeks, the cubs will travel together on a flight from Oakland to Indianapolis, accompanied by staff from both zoos, to help ensure the cubs arrive safely. In Indianapolis, they will be met by additional members of the Columbus Zoo’s Animal Care team who will drive the cubs to the new home.
The Oakland Zoo will allow the Columbus Zoo to name the female cubs, announcing their names in the coming weeks.
“Even with the cubs’ tragic beginning, their story is actually one of survival and hope. We are proud to work with our friends at Oakland Zoo, whose expertise has given these cubs another chance. We remain committed to the cubs’ care, and we will continue to share their important story with others as we work together to protect the future of wildlife and wild places,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO Tom Stalf in a news release.
With recent research showing that mountain lions are more social than scientists previously believed, the cubs will be introduced to a female mountain lion, Jessie. At 17 years old, she has surpassed the median life expectancy of 16 years for mountain lions in human care facilities. While she is now nearly blind, she is in good health and zoo experts hope she will form a bond with the cubs.
Out of all the zoos in the country, the Columbus Zoo was chosen due to their “excellence in animal care,” welfare and previous experience rescuing North American animals, including black bears, brown bears, moose and mountain lions.
After all three recovered, the cubs were introduced to one another on October 28. Zookeepers said their bonding was immediate, and ever since, they have been playing, cuddling and sleeping together.
"We’re grateful and beyond happy that Captain Cal has made such an amazing recovery and now has a family with the two females. These cubs’ poignant faces have made an impact on so many and helped raise awareness around the issue of global warming and the environment we – and these animals – live in. We’re fully committed to continue taking in burned wildlife that need our help, and hopefully, one day that need will no longer exist,” said Dr. Alex Herman, director of Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.