The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society will host its inaugural “Save the Panther 5k” race, presented by Sagicor Life Insurance, on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 7:30 a.m. on the zoo grounds at 1301 Summit Blvd. in West Palm Beach.
The starting line begins at the zoo’s parking lot, and goes through Dreher Park, entering the zoo on the west side. The running path passes by the wallaby viewing station, the fennec fox exhibit, ocelots, Siamang Island and more on the way to the finish line at the interactive fountain by the zoo’s entrance.
Mira, the zoo’s new Florida panther, is moving from quarantine quarters to the panther exhibit in a holding yard this week, leading up to an official public debut during a special “Panther Talk” at 9:45 a.m. after the race finishes.
A soft launch of Mira’s adjusting to the holding yard, in which she will be able to see and smell Micco, the zoo’s resident panther ambassador, will allow her comfort level to grow.
Runners who participate in the “Save the Panther 5k” race will receive free zoo admission for the day, in which they can go by and meet Mira during her first-ever “Panther Talk.”
Discount zoo coupons will be included in each runner’s packet, for supporters who would like to cheer them on as they cross the finish line. Brochures and information about panther conservation, provided by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, will be included in runner participant packets.
“This race is important for us, because it supports our panther exhibit and educates the public about the plight of Florida panthers,” said Ron Brooks, events manager for the zoo. “By teaching race participants about actions they can take to help wild panthers, we hope to fulfill our mission of inspiring people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world.”
Ashley Yates, Mira’s primary zookeeper, said Mira’s health has been steadily improving while she has been in quarantine in the zoo’s Melvin J. & Claire Levine Animal Care Complex. “Mira is much more active than when she first came to us,” Yates said. “We hear her energetically playing every morning. She loves to play with coconuts, and she has lost excess fat and built muscle. Her recent movements show her flexibility and mobility have dramatically improved.”
Runners can register online at www.palmbeachzoo.org through noon on Friday, Jan. 3, with limited on-site race day registration available. The first 500 runners will receive a panther shirt featuring a photo of Micco, the zoo’s panther ambassador currently on exhibit.
The Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches exists to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife. The Palm Beach Zoo is a located at 1301 Summit Blvd. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. For more information, visit www.palmbeachzoo.org.