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Saturday, May 28, 2011 - 4:25am

Feds Reject Okefenokee Panther Transplant

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected a proposal to transplant some Florida panthers to the Okefenokee Swamp on the Florida-Georgia border.

Florida panthers once roamed across the Southeast, but the only current population is in South Florida. It numbers only 120 to 160 breeding animals.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity said Friday that the denial puts the big cats at greater risk of extinction. His is one of several environmental groups supporting the transplant idea.

Robinson, though, said he thought the decision wouldn't be the last word.

Cynthia Dohner, the service's regional director in Atlanta, based her denial on its panther recovery plan.

That plan gives priority to maintaining and expanding the South Florida population over establishing new colonies.