Palm Desert

Rare Black-Footed Kitten Heals Following an Injury

Arya was injured during her first few weeks at The Living Desert, but she is showing a "fighting spirit."

The Living Desert

THE LIVING DESERT ZOO AND GARDENS, the animal park that's known for its spring-predicting tortoise Mojave Maxine, the brand-new Rhino Savanna, beautiful giraffes, excellent hiking trails, and sparkly seasonal nighttime experiences, has gained a reputation as big and bountiful bastion of animals, a larger-than-life location that features several super-tall, ultra-stocky critters. But sometimes the Palm Desert-based zoo welcomes a new resident that is small, extremely small, and when this little one needs some additional TLC? Staffers, doctors, and feline specialists swiftly step up to help.

ARYA, a black-footed kitten was born at The Living Desert on April 8, 2022. The event, called a "historic birth," was an exciting one: Black-footed cats are endangered, and Arya's birth was the first at the zoo's Desert Carnivore Conservation Center in over two decades. Adding to this wee one's inspiring story? Arya is "the only black-footed cat birth in human care this year," shared the zoo. But a visual check on April 21 told keepers that Arya had a neck laceration, possibly received from "overzealous grooming" by her mother, or from being carried by her mother (the cause is not known). Surgery soon followed, and Arya is now healing well and displaying "a fighting spirit."

HEALING JOURNEY: "Arya is steadily improving, and we are very encouraged by her progress," said Dr. Christine Higbie, Associate Veterinarian of The Living Desert. "We have seen great improvements in her health, behavior, and wellbeing. Her neck wound is healing very nicely, she is becoming more active and is eating regularly. Her recovery to date is truly remarkable, and we have all fallen in love with this little warrior." The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has categorized the black-footed cat as "Vulnerable," and the species currently has "an estimated population of about 13,000 individuals in their native habitat of southern Africa."

ARYA... officially received her name, which means "honorable" in Sanskrit, on May 5 (it's also a nod to the powerful character in George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series, says the zoo team). As for when Arya may make a public debut? Watch The Living Desert's social feeds for more information on the future of this mighty fighter.

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