Human Interest

Puma found roaming Chilean capital during COVID-19 curfew returns to Andes

Santiago de Chile, Mar 27 (efe-epa).- A puma found roaming the deserted streets of Santiago during the curfew imposed by the Chilean government amid the coronavirus pandemic was on Friday returned to its habitat in the Andes mountain range.

The puma was seen padding freely through the streets of the busy Providencia and Nunoa neighborhoods in the capital, which was under its second day of curfew from 10 pm to 5 am.

Rafael Asenjo, veterinarian and member of the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG), told EFE the mammal could have taken advantage of the absence of people under curfew during which it traversed through the premises of a school and the gardens of a private property where it sought shelter.

Several residents of the area alerted the authorities and after an operation by the Carabineros (Chilean Police) and SAG, the wild cat was captured.

After a veterinary examination, which included blood tests, radiography and ultrasounds, the Rehabilitation Center of the National Zoo of Santiago approved its medical discharge, which led the SAG to release the puma into its natural habitat in the Andes mountain range on Friday.

The animal was a young Puma Concolor, a species protected by Chilean law, of approximately one year and two months old, weighing about 30.8 kilograms.

“After the check-up we can confirm that the specimen is healthy, has a wild behavior according to its age, is in very good body condition and does not have any type of mood disturbances,” said Natalia Durán, a zoo veterinarian, according to a statement from the SAG.

The area where the puma was released “is new to him” and it will have to adapt, said Durán, who added that it “already has all the instincts” to do so and that is probably why it ended up in the city — because “it was looking for a territory” to settle in.

Pumas, Asenjo said, have “always inhabited the central region of Chile,” especially in the mountain ranges or precordillera (foothills) areas.

Although there have been previous sightings of a pumas in urbanized areas, they have never been found so far down, according to Asenjo.

In addition, the veterinarian pointed out that other factors such as food shortages caused by drought and urbanization, which has crept further towards the Andes mountain range in recent decades, might also have contributed to its appearance in the capital.

“The wildlife is not invading the city. It is we who are increasing in size and the animals are only trying to adapt. It is important that in the interaction areas people have education and respect,” he said.

According to several residents, another puma was sighted on Wednesday in a neighborhood in the east of the capital.

However, after a three-hour operation, the authorities were unable to find the puma. EFE-EPA

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