ISLAMABAD   -   Inbreeding among mountain lions in Southern California is leading to genetic abnormalities that threaten the animal’s existence. Biologists with the National Park Service have detected several defects among cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains this year, including crooked tails and undescended testicles. It’s the first time such manifestations have been observed in Los Angeles’ modest mountain lion population, and could be a harbinger of their extinction in just a few decades.

 Conservationists hope to increase their genetic diversity with a ‘wildlife overpass’ that would connect animal populations to other wildlife north of the city. ‘This is something we hoped to never see,’ said wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich in a statement. ‘We knew that genetic diversity was low here, but this is the first time we have actually seen physical evidence of it. This grave discovery underscores the need for measures to better support this population.’ The National Park Service has been monitoring the cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountains for nearly 20 years, but this marks the first time defects linked with inbreeding depression have been observed.