Wild puma rescued from tree in Chilean capital

VIDEO: REUTERS

SANTIAGO (AFP) - A wild puma kept watch over a neighbourhood of Chile's capital Santiago for 15 hours in a tree before it was rescued, the zoo in charge of the operation said on Thursday (Jan 3).

The young male puma, which weighs around 30 kilograms, was first seen up a huge tree on Wednesday afternoon in the El Arrayan neighbourhood.

He remained there, practically without moving, until he was shot with a tranquilizer dart by the Agriculture and Livestock Service, after which he fell 18m onto cushions, his drop also slowed by branches.

"It was the best scenario. It was a low-risk fall," Alejandra Montalba, director at the city's Metropolitan Zoo, which oversaw the rescue operation, told local media.

Following the rescue, the puma was taken to the Santiago zoo, although it is due to be released back into the wild at a later date.

"He climbed the tree because he was very scared as there were dogs and many people. He wasn't going to come down alone," added Montalba.

It is unclear why the puma found itself in an urban zone but with the growth of Santiago into the surrounding foothills of the Andes, sightings of wild animals in built-up areas are becoming ever more common, Montalba said.

Pumas - also known as cougars, mountain lions, panthers and catamounts - are large wild cats native to the Americas and can be found from Canada's northwest Yukon territory all the way down to the southern Andes.

Fully grown males average just over 60kg but can weigh up to 100kg and can stand up to 90cm tall.