Mystery Monkey, Florida panther cages damaged by storm; panther trapped

Panther could have gotten out, but didn't

DADE CITY, Fla. - Cages for the Tampa Bay Mystery Monkey and a Florida panther at Wild Things zoo in Dade City were damaged Sunday by a severe storm.

Wild Things Director Kathy Stearns tells ABC Action News by phone Monday morning that the Florida panther, Mariah, does not appear injured after a tree fell on her cage Sunday, but she remains trapped by the debris. The cage for Cornelius -- a Rhesus macaque who gained international fame after living on the lam in and around Tampa Bay for years before being caught in 2012 -- was also damaged by another tree, but the zoo was able to move him to a safe area.

Stearns said Mariah could have gotten out of the top of the cage, but didn't. An active electric wire that was knocked down during the storm slowed crews' efforts to get to Mariah before nightfall Sunday.

"She is OK ... pretty scared, though," Stearns said. "The tree is so massive, it flattened the cage." Crews were able to temporarily secure the panther in the cage. Stearns added that despite being able to get out of the cage, animals usually don't leave in such situation, because it's the safest place they know.

Crews will continue their efforts to move Mariah at daybreak Monday. ""We will have to move her in the morning after clearing a path to even get her out," Wild Things posted on their Facebook page, "as well as remove the damage to Cornelius'" cage.

Stearns said the storm damage at Wild Things appeared to be the work of a tornado, but a tornado has not yet been confirmed to have moved through the area Sunday.

"Trees (were) twisted one way, one tree the other," Stearns said. "The property has a (damage) line. It's looks like a tornado came through."

"It is quite overwhelming -- the damage throughout the zoo," Wild Things' Facebook page stated overnight. "So many trees to be removed.It's a lot of work."

If you are interested in assisting Wild Things, call Kathy at 813-714-2555 or email

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