A few big cats at the Central Florida Animal Reserve (CFAR) now have special accommodations, thanks to Emily Berman, 17, a junior at Cocoa Beach Junior-Senior High School.

As part of a Girl Scout Ambassador’s Gold project, Emily, who has a passion for animals, built step-up ramps for three aging cougars, which have arthritis.

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Cheyenne2“This is an important addition to our cougar habitat especially because of their impaired mobility,” said Dr. K. Simba Wiltz, CEO and Senior Vice President.  “Emily’s contribution aids our ongoing efforts to accommodate our aging animal residents.”

One of the cougars, Cheyenne, is the oldest known resident of CFAR.  She was born September 23, 1996–and will be 18 this year.  While still as feisty and playful as ever, she has been hampered by arthritis over time. Cougars are known for their leaping ability–in some cases being observed jumping 18 feet straight up into the air.  They enjoy vantage points in their natural habitat such as rocky outcroppings and trees.  These elevations had previously been out of reach for Cheyenne.  Age, and being declawed early in life have certainly taken its toll.

“As was common with cougars of that era, Cheyenne was declawed long before we started working with her at CFAR.”  Dr. Wiltz said, “This was prior to the advent of laws and advocacy that helped reduce; and, in some cases, make illegal the declawing of big cats.”

Cheyenne and her enclosure-mates Kehkehga and Ista Toyela, showed a great deal of interest in the new feature.  They can regularly be found traversing the new platforms, grateful to be able to look down on their enclosure once more.  Clearly, they have found Emily’s project to be a step in the right direction.