Patagonia pumas finally reach their new home

patagonian puma rescued from abandoned zooThe early morning rain fell softly as our team pulled into Miami International Airport’s cargo hold. After a little over two years, some very special big cats had finally arrived. To fully understand their story, we need to go back to the beginning.

In 2015, a zoo in Rawson, Argentina closed due to lack of funding and public pressure. Homes needed to be found for the animals and the International Fund for Animal Welfare stepped in to help however possible. In the case of two Patagonian pumas, transport was needed for the pair to reach their new home at Forest Animal Rescue (FAR) in Florida. The two cats were born at the zoo and have lived together their entire lives, so it was certain the two would need to stay together. Pat Craig, executive director of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, stepped in to help secure the required permits and paperwork for entering the United States. Pat has extensive experience in translocating animals all across the world. Kurt and Lisa Stoner held space at FAR for the pumas.

patagonian puma rescued from abandoned zooWhen we first set out on this rescue, we had no idea how long it would take for the permits to be issued. For over two years, Pat worked with the Argentine government to issue the paperwork. One beautiful, warm day in August, I received news from Pat that the paperwork was now complete and the pumas were scheduled for arrival in the US on August 23, 2017.

It was this very week when Pat met Kurt, Lisa and me at the airport.

A few hours after our arrival, the cats cleared customs, were loaded into an air-conditioned trailer, and received fresh water. The final leg of their long journey was underway - a five- hour drive from Miami International Airport to FAR in Silver Springs, FL.

The trailer arrived at FAR just as the sun was beginning to set. A team of excited staff and volunteers were standing by to assist, having been anticipating this day for two long years.

patagonian pumas rescued from abandoned zooWe quickly but carefully unloaded the cats from the trailer and released them one by one into their new temporary quarantine enclosure. The male was released first. He was uncertain about leaving the crate that he had been in for two days, but eventually the draw of the expansive open area before him won out over his doubt and he walked into the enclosure. The female went next. We were all worried about whether or not she would leave her crate, as she hadn’t moved much all day. Thankfully, she quickly sat up and began looking around once her door was opened, but she seemed unwilling to leave.  It wasn’t until her companion walked past her in the new enclosure that she sauntered out to join him.

In their new home, both cats will enjoy a lush, spacious enclosure where they can live in peace. This is in great contrast to the restrictive and barren cages they have previously known.

I hope these pumas enjoy a life of tranquility and quiet after years of facing crowded stares in steel and concrete cages.


IFAW does not currently actively participate in zoo closures, however IFAW and partners committed to this rescue more than two years ago and felt it was important to honor that commitment.

The Argentinian government was instrumental in the process of translocating these pumas and has remained committed to seeing them placed in a quality sanctuary.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy