A koala in a Los Angeles Zoo enclosure was mauled to death, and the beloved Griffith Park mountain lion P-22 is believed to be the animal responsible, the zoo's director said Wednesday.
The koala caretakers were doing a head count last Thursday and discovered one was missing.
As they searched the area, they found a tuft of hair.
Hours later, zoo workers discovered the body of a 14-year-old female koala about 400 yards away, John Lewis, director of the Los Angeles Zoo, said.
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A month before, zoo workers were reviewing surveillance footage that monitors outside wildlife, and were surprised at what they saw.
"We were actually looking for bobcats, and what we found on that night was P-22," Lewis said. "That was the first time we knew he was getting into the zoo."
After reviewing the footage the night that the koala was killed, they saw P-22.
The mountain lion is believed to have been born in the Santa Monica Mountains and made the trek across the 405 and 101 Freeways to the Griffith Park wilderness.
"We don't know how he's getting in or how he's getting out [of the zoo], but he was also seen the night the koala disappeared," Lewis said.
Lewis said P-22 has not killed zoo animals before, and is believed to have been eating raccoons that get inside the zoo.
Zoo workers were taking extra precautions after the incident, like locking up smaller animals in their barns at night.
"The koalas are all off exhibit. They're in a safe place," Lewis said.
Despite the sad news of the koala's death, Lewis said he doesn't believe P-22 should be moved from his home in the wilderness of Griffith Park.
"There's a lot of native wildlife in this area. This is their home," Lewis said. "So we'll learn to adapt to P-22 just like he's learned to adapt to us."
The office of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti released a statement to NBC4 via email regarding the incident.
"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," Barbara Romero, deputy mayor for city services, said. "We are investigating the circumstances of the koala's disappearance but in the meantime, we are taking action to ensure that all of our animals are safe. The koalas have been removed from their public habitats for now and other animals are being moved to their night quarters when the zoo closes."
Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell said that P-22 should perhaps be resettled as his interactions with the city and residents become more frequent.
"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 said. "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."
"This is not a situation where we can get rid of the native wildlife and not expect this to happen again," Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service said.
This wasn't the first time the beloved mountain lion was in a place where some believe he shouldn't be. P-22 was spotted in a Hollywood Hills backyard in November.