A wild mountain lion named P-22 who famously roams the Hollywood Hills, may have recently made a meal of a koala at the Los Angeles Zoo, officials said today.
The 14-year-old female koala named Killarney went missing from her habitat last Thursday, the L.A. Zoo told ABC News. The zoo added that koala care staff immediately began looking for her and found portions of her remains at the zoo.
"There is no definite photo or video evidence that P-22, the mountain lion that lives in Griffith Park, was the cause of her disappearance, but the mountain lion was seen on Zoo surveillance footage on grounds the night before she died," the zoo said in a statement. "As a precaution animal care staff has begun moving a majority of the animal collection into their inside barns and quarters at night."
The zoo added that the "koalas have been relocated indoors for the time being and will return to their outdoor habitat at a later date."
The zoo's director, John Lewis, said the zoo will learn to adapt to the wild cougar just as the cougar has learned to adapt to the zoo, the Associated Press reported.
P-22 became a local celebrity in the area after he was first spotted in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign in 2012, according to Kate Kuykendall, spokesperson for the National Park Service's Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
"It was previously believed that the area was too small and that the land was too isolated by freeways and urbanization for there to be a mountain lion," Kuykendall told ABC News today. "So he became a big celebrity. He was a large predator living within the city limits of the second biggest city in the country."
That same year, P-22 was captured by biologists who put a tracking collar on him before releasing him back to the wild, Kuykendall said, adding that biologists have been studying him for the past four years.
"Unfortunately the tracking collar only give us GPS points for him every two hours, and we don't have a point for him in the exact location of the koalas at the zoo," she said. "But we do have points showing he was in the vicinity of the area."
The koala's death has sparked concerns from residents who believe P-22 should be relocated, including Mitch O'Farrell, a city council member for the 13th District.
"Regardless of what predator killed the koala, this tragedy just emphasizes the need to contemplate relocating P-22 to a safer, more remote wild area where he has adequate space to roam without the possibility of human interaction," O'Farrell told ABC News in a statement today. "P-22 is maturing, will continue to wander, and runs the risk of a fatal freeway crossing as he searches for a mate. As much as we love P-22 at Griffith Park, we know the park is not ultimately suitable for him. We should consider resettling him in the environment he needs."
It's ultimately up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether to relocate P-22, Kuykendall said. However, she said she believes the incident highlights the need "for a more long-term solution."
"The zoo is surrounded by hundreds of acres of natural habitat that's home to wildcats, coyotes and other predators," she said. "I think we have to think in terms of the larger picture: How can we co-exist with native wildlife in southern California?"