Notorious mountain lion suspected of killing koala at LA Zoo

Famous Mountain Lion Suspected in Death of Koala at LA Zoo

LOS ANGELES, March 10 (Reuters) - A mountain lion known as P-22, who gained fame after being photographed striding past the landmark Hollywood sign, is suspected of mauling to death a 14-year-old koala at the Los Angeles Zoo, officials said on Thursday.

Zoo surveillance cameras showed P-22 prowling around the zoo the night of the koala's violent death, zoo director John Lewis told a news conference.

"Unfortunately, these types of incidents happen when we have a zoo in such close proximity to one of the largest urban parks in the country," Deputy Los Angeles Mayor Barbara Romero said in a statement.

Zoo cameras did not capture P-22 in the act, but officials said there is ample evidence to support their belief that the cougar found his way into the marsupial enclosure before making off with the koala, named Killarney.

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P-22 appears to have jumped an 8-foot (2.4-meter) wall protecting the koalas before making off with Killarney, who weighed at least 15 pounds (6.8 kg), Lewis said. Parts of her mangled body were found a short distance away. Only a large predator could manage that, he said.

Killarney may have been especially vulnerable to attack because she had a habit of spending time on the ground after dark while most of the other koalas stayed in the trees.

Zoo officials said they have temporarily moved the remaining 10 koalas indoors around the clock, with most of the other zoo animals moving inside every night.

P-22's name was given by biologists studying mountain lions in Southern California. It combines the first letter of "puma" with the number that indicates he was the 22nd large cat tagged for the study.

He lives in 4,000-acre (1,619-hectare) Griffith Park, which includes both wild sections and the zoo, and had been on zoo grounds before without "bothering any of the animals or being a nuisance," Lewis said.

Last year, P-22 touched off a media frenzy after he was discovered hiding in the crawl space under a Los Angeles house. He stole away undetected in the dead of night. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sara Catania and Sandra Maler)

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