The Panther Ridge Conservation Center in Loxahatchee Groves recently welcomed its newest resident, a female African leopard cub, which brings the total number of exotic cats living at the haven to 23.
Even though the facility is a popular destination for those visiting Palm Beach County, Panther Ridge’s focus is not just to be a wildlife attraction, but to promote education and conservation for endangered and threatened big cats.
“Scarlet is a three-month-old, endangered African leopard that came from another facility. She found her forever home at Panther Ridge, and we plan to eventually introduce an unrelated male to her,” Panther Ridge Head Keeper Sadie Ryan explained.
Panther Ridge is part of a highly specialized and regulated network of facilities that work to save these majestic creatures from going extinct. This is why the sanctuary works hard to maintain accreditations with both the Zoological Association of America and the Feline Conservation Federation.
Locals and tourists can also explore the facility with a variety of options on just how up close and personal they would like to get with the animals. You can even go for a walk with a cheetah (no direct contact with the animal) and take home a personal painting from the cats themselves. There are group tours available for schools, and all tours at the facility must be booked in advance. The center does not currently offer walk-ins. Call (561) 795-8914 to set up a visit.
If Scarlet the leopard is what draws you to the sanctuary, know that she will be sharing her space with a roommate soon.
“Since we also have a one-year-old female Amur leopard, Mischa, that is alone, we will work on introducing the two leopard girls so they can have some companionship,” Ryan said. “We will not be offering encounters with Scarlet due to our accreditation association prohibiting the public to have contact with Class I cats.”
When the weather cools, Panther Ridge will re-open its Twilight Tours program, which provides an opportunity to see the cats after dark, when many species are most active.
“We will be getting a new species soon, making Panther Ridge home to 10 species of felines,” Ryan said. “So, definitely be on the lookout for the new addition.”
A nonprofit organization, Panther Ridge, located at 2143 D Road in Loxahatchee Groves, is open to all ages, and tours are available by reservation seven days a week. Call (561) 795-8914 or visit www.pantherridge.org for more information on programs, as well as volunteer or internship opportunities.