Naples Zoo teams with brewing company to raise funds for stolen panther cameras

The Naples Zoo is trying to find the thieves who stole cameras used to track Florida panthers and raise the funds to replace the missing technology.

You might remember seeing heartbreaking video of panthers and bobcats struggling to walk with limp hind legs, preventing them from getting food and staying with their groups.
The reason scientists found out about this mysterious and likely fatal neurological disease is because of surveillance cameras recording it.

“Obviously, if you’ve seen the video, the kittens… it’s heartbreaking to see these animals trying to move themselves along without control of their back legs,” said Tim Tetzlaff, director of conservation for the Naples Zoo. “So, finding data, finding video of these animals moving through the area, once you get access to that animal, hopefully for getting the answer to help more animals.”

The cameras in Big Cypress Preserve allowed scientists to see if any panthers got the disease and what happens to them after. There are still many unknowns: what causes it, if there’s a cure and how badly it affects the panthers. But now, weeks of invaluable and irreplaceable video has been stolen, so the zoo knew it wanted to help

“People who steal these things often just walk along with bolt cutters and take off the cables that way,” Tetzlaff said. “The worst part about this is not just a single camera that goes missing, but because this is actually a global problem: These cameras are stolen around the world in research projects, so much so that some researchers don’t put the cameras where they’re most likely to get the good data, they put them where they’re most likely not to be stolen.”

Tetzlaff says me they don’t know why this is happening—it could just be vandalism, or the cameras could have been rolling on illegal activities. The Naples Zoo is partnering with Riptide Brewing Company to raise money for new cameras (protected by steel boxes) with the Brew for the Zoo event. Buy a beer—the limited-time Uno and Athena Ale, named after panthers that were associated with the zoo—and you could save panthers in the long run.

The stolen cameras cost around $3,000, but the new ones will cost a little more. Anyone with information about the stolen cameras may call or text the investigative services branch tip line at (888) 653-0009 or submit an anonymous tip online.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Joey Pellegrino
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