National Geographic : 1991 Aug
PORTFOLIO TEXT BY CATHY NEWMAN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SENIOR STAFF SONNY BASS EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK With 80 pounds of tranquilized Florida panther draped around his neck, Park Service wildlife research biologist Oron "Sonny" Bass heads to a mobile medi cal unit with Melody Roelke, a veteri narian for the state of Florida. There the big cat's blood, feces, semen, and saliva will be sampled, and its radio tracking collar will be refitted. The Florida Panther Recovery Proj ect is a joint effort between state and federal agencies to study and save the 30 to 50 panthers that live in the wild. The Everglades and adjoining areas are the last stronghold of the panther, nearly eliminated by hunting and dimin ished habitat. That panthers need room is indisputable. Bass has tracked one panther over a 600-square-mile area. "They're tough," says Bass, who has also studied eagles, manatees, and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow in his 15 years with the service. "They use every thing they've got to survive." Sometimes that is not enough. The imperiled Everglades, utterly dependent on free-flowing water, must compete for the resource with agricul ture and the growth of Miami. The hab itats of park plant life and of wildlife like the panther hang in the balance.