Los Angeles, a city known for its celebrities and beautiful people, has begun hosting a yearly party for one its most beloved and famous stars who is a real survivor and a hero of the four-legged kind. This year marked the fourth annual P-22 Day, a festival to honor mountain lion P-22 who crossed 2 of the busiest freeways in the U.S. and took up residence in Griffith Park. The journey he made was incredible and so is the overwhelming support he has received from LA and, from people from around the world. P-22’s story inspired the Save LA Cougars campaign which will raise money to help build, what will be, the world’s largest wildlife crossing in LA. The crossing will help save endangered mountain lion populations as well as help restore connectivity benefiting nature and all wildlife.
As a long time fan and supporter of P-22 and the Save LA Cougars campaign I decided to take a trip to see what a party for the world’s most famous mountain lion, was like.
Part of the week long celebration, and Urban Wildlife Week, leading up to the festival is 5 day hike following in the footsteps of P-22. The hike, which is lead by NWF California Regional Executive Director Beth Pratt, makes its way through the Santa Monica Mountains tracing a route that P-22 most likely took to get to Griffith Park. With some portions of the hike open to the public I decided to join on day 4 and complete 6 miles which started at TreePeople park and ended at the Hollywood Bowl overlook. The hike took us through trails, busy neighborhoods and roads ending at the point where P-22 would have made his final crossing to get to Griffith Park. While we didn’t have to play ‘frogger’ with LA’s deadly traffic we were exposed to a mere fraction of what it was like to walk in the shoes, or paws, of one very brave mountain lion. I came away with a better understanding and appreciation for just how extraordinarily difficult life is for these predators even when you have an entire city rooting for you.
After an invigorating hike the next stop was the P-22 Day festival. I wondered what the magic formula was that made so many people from different ages, walks of life, and backgrounds support a cause so passionately? More than just a party, the P-22 Day Festival and campaign around it, is like nothing seen before. This initiative has solid research to back it up, but it is also based on tolerance, coexistence and love for wildlife. If the rest of the world is willing to learn from what is happening in LA, there is a lot we can take away and apply to help wildlife where we live.
It turned out to be a perfect day for a party and thousands turned out to celebrate. There were exhibitors aimed at educating people about urban wildlife, nature, mountain lions, coexistence and of course the importance of connectivity. There was also dancing, demonstrations, arts and crafts for kids and experts ready to answer your questions about wildlife. P-22 Day is an all ages event, but they really gear activities towards kids and families to enjoy together which is key to inspiring and teaching the next generation.
There were many fun activities throughout the day and a few highlights include the P-22 song On The Move Again performed by 3rd Rock Hip Hop, a group that teaches kids about environmental awareness and, for those wanting to see the world through a mountain lions eyes The Save LA Cougars Virtual Reality experience, which can be experienced at home by downloading the app for your phone or by watching via your web browser.
There were also a few surprise announcements including the giving match challenge which is inspiring people to do their part to help LA’s mountain lions. Generous donors are currently matching donations, which can be made here, by individuals up to $50K to support the wildlife crossing.
For those wanting to go home with some cool P-22 merchandise, there was no short supply. Whether an adorable stuffed plushy complete with a GPS tracking collar, a new t-shirt, tote bag, or official collectors pin, 100% of the proceeds go back to support the wildlife crossing. If you couldn’t make it to the festival all merchandise can be purchased directly from the Save LA Cougars website.
If you missed P-22 Day this year not to worry, the festival will be back next year and If you are contemplating going I highly suggest you do, especially if you live in LA, are a fan of wildlife, connectivity and P-22.
Keep up to date on all things P-22 by following his facebook page and, for an update on the campaign and wildlife crossing be sure to check out a recent interview with Beth Pratt from In Focus California: SoCal.