March 10, 2016 10:46 PM

Did a California mountain lion kill a zoo koala, or is this a feline frame job? 

According to the L.A. Times, a koala went missing from its enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park on March 3. Soon after realizing the animal was gone, zoo staff found tufts of grey fur on road near the koala exhibit. These tufts led workers to a pile of mangled koala parts. At a loss as to who could’ve murder the sweet marsupial, the zoo checked the motion-sensor cameras they placed around  Griffith Park for clues. 

In the footage taken from cameras near the zoo’s koala exhibit, workers spotted mountain lion P-22. 

The tagged mountain lion has been spotted several times on the Griffith Park cameras the zoo set up to monitor the behaviors of the surrounding park’s wild animals, including appearances on the zoo’s premises. Zoo officials are unsure how the 6-year-old puma is getting in and out of the premises. 

“The evidence is circumstantial. We don’t have any video of it taking the koala. We can’t say 100 percent,” L.A. Zoo director John Lewis told the Times about P-22’s most recent park sighting.

While Lewis isn’t certain, he is looking at P-22 as a main suspect in the murder of Killarney, the zoo’s oldest koala. The koalas are kept in an open enclosure, and it was common for Killarney to roam around on the ground at night, instead of staying in the protective cover of the trees. Lewis believes the mountain lion jumped an eight-foot wall to enter this enclosure, quickly snapped the koala off the ground and then jumped back over the same wall. 

“It’s a pretty good feat in itself … It was a pretty quick snatch,” Lewis admitted. 

There will likely never be a clear answer to whether P-22 is guilty, but the suspicion over his innocence may lead to some changes. The zoo has currently taken the ten remaining koalas off public display and have started keeping all the animals in their night quarters once the zoo closes. National Park Service official Kate Kuykendall believes this is a practice the zoo should continue. 

“This wouldn’t be an example of him behaving aggressively or abnormally,” she said of P-22’s alleged koala murder . “Whether it’s exotic pets or exotic animals, or our own domestic pets, we need to make sure they’re in safe enclosures or brought in at night.”

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell believes it should be P-22 that is moved, not pets and zoo animals.

“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,” the councilman said in a statement released to the press. 

Researcher think P-22 made Griffith Park his home in 2012, after leaving the Santa Monica Mountains and crossing over two freeways. Since arriving at the park, P-22 has become a bit of a celebrity. A National Geographic photographer managed to capture a now-famous shot of the mountain lion in front of the Hollywood sign. P-22 also made headlines last year, when he exited the park and decided to take residence in the crawl space of a home for a short time. 

The zoo has added more cameras to the park in hopes of capturing the way P-22 enters and exits the zoo. Whether the mountain lion will be allowed to stay in the park has not been decided.

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