GLOCESTER — A Florida-based animal sanctuary quietly took possession of a 200-pound pet mountain lion from a home in a rural section of Chepachet Thursday morning.
Much to the surprise of neighbors, Narla the mountain lion had been living in a large chain-link pen on the ample grounds of 47 Whipple Road for at least 12 years. The owner of the dwelling, identified by a police dispatcher as Marilyn Loppi, decided she could no longer care for the big cat recently following the death of her husband, Robert, last year.
Along with a crew from the cable TV station Animal Planet, staffers from the educational sanctuary Big Cat Rescue took possession of the tawny-colored mountain lion before 8 a.m. A non-profit cat refuge in Tampa, Fla., Big Cat Rescue is home to the largest collection of exotic cat species in the world, from lions and tigers to ocelots to jaguars. The organization is devoted to providing permanent homes for unwanted or neglected cats and educating the public about animal conservation.
A published report prompted a number of TV and newspaper reporters to descend on the Loppi residence hoping to witness Narla's relocation, but the cat's pen was empty by the time they arrived. A couple of horses grazed in a corral
behind the big blue colonial and several dogs could be heard yapping inside the house, but no one answered a knock at the door. Loppi was later quoted as saying the transfer was purposefully carried out earlier than initially announced because she believed the privacy was in the best interest of the female mountain lion, also known as a southwestern cougar.
Michael Merchant, the town's animal control officer, did not return telephone calls Thursday. But Gail Mastrati, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Management, said the agency issued Loppi's husband an exotic pet permit in 1997.
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