Update: Mountain lion leaves Glocester home for Fla.
6:33 PM Thu, Jan 07, 2010 | Permalink
Kate Bramson    Email

Photo courtesy of Marilyn Loppi

Narla the mountain lion, looking out from her kennel in Glocester, was moved Thursday and is headed to a wildlife sanctuary in Florida. Video: Coaxing Narla on moving day


GLOCESTER, R.I. — Marilyn Loppi never intended to own a mountain lion.

But she ended up with one when she began dating — and later married — a man who also never intended to own the big cat the couple called Narla.

After Robert J. Loppi’s death from leukemia last May, Marilyn Loppi decided it was time for the 90-pound mountain lion to live a different kind of life where she’ll be able to roam more than her Glocester cage ever allowed, and where the aging cat won’t have to deal with harsh New England winters.
And so, the mountain lion that lived under the radar since 2000 on a small stretch of rural Whipple Road in the northern part of Glocester — and in Johnston before that — slipped away Thursday morning as quietly as she had resided there.
A pride of reporters with still and video cameras and a Glocester animal control officer hoped for a glimpse of the animal as it was taken away. But none saw Narla go.
Marilyn Loppi answered her door around 9 a.m. and said the animal had left before 8. Then she declined to say more, and did not answer as other reporters continued to knock.
In an interview hours later, she said she had worked with a man from an animal sanctuary in Tampa, Fla., to avoid the media crush. Scott Lope, director of operations at Big Cat Rescue,had sent Marilyn a crate for Narla ahead of time, and Marilyn tempted her with shrimp — which the cat had never eaten before, but turned out to love — to test the crate over the last week.
Then Marilyn got Narla into the cage, called Lope and two others with him who were waiting down the road. With Narla next to her in the crate, she waited until he got there a couple of minutes later.
“And they picked the crate up, put it in the vehicle, and I said goodbye,” Marilyn said. “And off they went.”

A call to Lope’s cell phone was not returned.

Lope has just been named Hero of the Year by the cable TV channel Animal Planet, which Marilyn said wanted to film at the house because it’s giving him the award Jan. 18. But over the years, Marilyn said, her husband had shied away from many media requests about Narla.

“She’s never been, you know, a focus of attention,” Marilyn said. “When Rob got her, there was no big news story, and I remember when the news would call and they would ask if they could do a story on her, and he would say no.

“And so I wanted to respect that — that it was never done, so why should it be done now?”

Before she met Robert, he lived in Johnston on a small farm where he had horses, cows and pigs, Marilyn says. The the place became a kind of refuge where folks would drop off animals they didn’t want anymore.

Narla was one of those. Robert took her in for a friend when she was a five-month-old cub.
That friend, whom Marilyn said Thursday she doesn’t even know, bought Narla from an exotic animal place in Virginia, but turned to Robert for help when the other man’s girlfriend said he was crazy to try to keep such an animal.
Robert even drove Narla back down to Virginia, Marilyn said, intending to give her back, but the man his friend had bought her from showed Robert how to care for Narla, how to bottle-feed her. He even declawed her then, Marilyn believes.
And for reasons unknown to Marilyn, Robert drove back up to Johnston with the animal he would later drive places as she sat in the front passenger seat next to him.
Everyone in Glocester knew the animal lived at 47 Whipple Rd., folks said Thursday. Marilyn says people would knock on the door and ask to see the mountain lion, and she and Robert would let them, while the cat remained in her.

Two houses down, Tony Giorgianni said that Narla was a quiet neighbor.
He and his wife, Lisa, bought their home five years ago, when they had just the first of their three children, he said. And the real estate agent who sold them the house said they needed to know what lived down the street.
But Giorgianni said he only heard her roar once.
“I have never seen the lion,” he said. “I’ve tried to see the lion — out of curiosity, you know. We’ve asked lots of questions of neighbors about the lion, because I have small children — and want to make sure this is properly caged and supposed to be here.”
Narla did have her papers. Back on Jan. 15, 1997, the state Department of Environmental Management issued an exotic animal permit to Robert Loppi, who lived in Johnston at the time, according to Gail Mastrati, a DEM spokeswoman.
The DEM paperwork indicates the spayed animal was kept in a double-fenced cage. Those cages are now in the yard behind the Glocester home where Narla lived.
Mastrati said Narla’s owners wouldn’t have been able to get a permit to keep her today, given recent incidents such as the attack on a woman by a chimpanzee in Connecticut recently.
“We would not issue such a permit other than to a zoo,” she said.
Marilyn Loppi said she’ll visit Narla, whom she describes as a “very, very affectionate, very gentle” animal, in Florida. “She was just a real pleasure to have.”
Marilyn says she’s glad the mountain lion will have more attention from handlers at the sanctuary, and more room to roam. But the day was bittersweet.
“It’s sad,” she said. “It’s sad and it’s kind of lonely, now that I’ve been here and I look out at her cage and it’s empty.
“It’s going to be an adjustment for me.”
— The Providence Journal has been following this story today as it develops. Our initial report was posted at 7:40 a.m., and updated at 9:45 a.m. and 1:01 p.m.
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Glocester RI lion


Onwatch said:

Am I the only person out here who thinks this guy should not have had a lion at his home? I live in a rural area and I wouldn’t be comfortable knowing my neighbor had one. Anyone else?


lifelover said:
Is Merchant kidding?? He’s known about this poor animal for years?? It is inhumane to keep a wild animal in total isolation from other animals of it’s kind!! What if this lion got loose and mauled a child-then what?? I’m sure the animal control officer would have avoided the limelight and denied knowing anyhing about it!!
Thank God this poor animal is going to a better place!!



How exciting!! Hope all goes well for lion!


Pat said:
So…..the animal control person knows there is a lion being kept in a private home and does nothing? This isn’t a safety issue? Lions can’t be kept in a house…..Hello??? He states he has 8 dogs at the shelter, why is only one on the Glocester animal shelter website?


nike outlet said:
Orders from all the professionals,” he said.
Right now, the shelter has about eight dogs and four to five cats in residence, Merchant said. None compare to the lion the crew will work with later on


Christy said:
I am a friend of the Lion and owner. I have known the cat for 12 years. The owners have had the cat since she was a cub “Narla” is her name. Beautiful, well natured and well taken care of. We have looked for a New Home and found a beautiful Lion Sanctuary. The widow always wanted the Lion to be in a home with others. Animal Planet and Merchant had nothing to do with the relocation or finding of a new beautiful home. The owner, widow of the lion did all the work! The lion was well taken care of by her. The transport crate/cage was delivered last week and the owner placed the cage inside the double cage and Narla became familiar with her
transport cage. At first sniffing and expecting. Then going in and she was rewarded with “Shrimp”. All went well this morning, the owner patted and brushed the cat for the last time. Animal Planey nor Merchant had NOTHING to do with the transport . Just a man looking for some fame at the last minute. If he knows ANYTHING about cats, it was best the animal left this morning before a Panic news frenzy wich would be distracting to the cat. The media parked themselves outside the owners home for hours, knocking for a
“Story”. The only one that cared about Narla was her owner.
She saw that Narla left quietly, purring and happy this morning Narla we will Miss you . But you are going to be just as happy if not happier in your new home. As for Merchant..Stick to what you know best…little cats! Merchant why show up with your media crew? news for you?! Think about the cat not yourself!


Roxus Maximus said:

First off, she is a mountain lion(Nala)…not a lion like most of you are thinking. Secondly, she was VERY loved by the man who took care of her who died a horrible death from leukemia. He was able to go in the cage with her and she was well fed. Her care and health was one of his biggest concerns during his last days of his life. Thirdly, she had an ample sized cage with a SECOND fence around it for safety’s sake. She was also declawed in her front paws. For that, I don’t know if she was that way when he got her or if he had that procedure done. We can’t worry about the “what-ifs”. She DIDN’T get loose and DIDN’T maul a child. Just be happy SHE had a loving life and will continue to be safe now in the sanctuary.


AsIseeit12 said:

The RI DEM allows permits for LIONS to be kept in private homes? After what happened in Conn. last year with the chimp attack you would think that a policy such as that would have been re-visited wouldn’t you?
So, I wonder what OTHER wild animals are living next door to you and me….


LAB said:

Guess you just never know about your neighbors!


Liberal Democrat said:

It sounds like the lady, who really cared about the mountain lion’s welfare, was fortunately able to see it on its way to a good home before the grandstanding animal control officer and Animal Planet got there. They probably would have terrorized the animal and turned the situation into a disaster.

Good for her.


mike said:

To the owners and friends of the Lion: It sounds like this lion had a very blessed life with you. I am sorry about all your neighbors and other RI’s that do not have the common sense to give you the respect for your lose.

After all you had the lion move to animal sanctuary, you would think that people would just support your decision. It sounds like it must have been a hard one to make for such a loved family member.

It sounds like you have gone out of your way to follow the law and show this lion a good life. 13 years of no problems speaks for itself.

God Bless and God Speed…


lourdes said:

I live in Chepachet, 2 miles from Whipple Road and did not feel threatened by Narla living there as well. No one would even have known about her if she wasn’t moving. People need to stop worrying about what could happen and focus on reality. She is a mountain lion that was kept in a well secured environment, and lived over ten years in Chepachet with no complaints or problems.


me said:


I’m a resident of Glocester and I knew the lion was there. Animal control had nothing to do with it. The owner had the proper permits from DEM so there was nothing he could do about it. There has never been a problem with it in the years it has been here. The owner took great care of it and now it was time for her to be moved since her owner dies.


Kevin Kuybus said:

Its always better to keep right things at right place. Human beings should live in house and lion should live in jungle. Hope all goes well for the lion in this case


me said:

i know nala..even pet her a few times, she is a sweet girl and was well taken care of..


Christy said:

Thanks For All your kind Words. For those of you who truly care
feel free to send a donation to http://bigcatrescue.org/
Care of Narla from Rhode Island….The man in the photo (Scott) he is the Professional who is transporting Narla along with 2 other Pros.
The owner saw that the transport was done properly, kindly and professionally. Bye Narla~ We will visit you in Florida!


bob said:

i have a pet crocodile living in my pool. and i have a polar bear too! he’s loving the snow. My Rhino is not too happy tho, he likes the rain and mudd! My elephant is just a baby and my unicorn has fleas! is this for real? what other animals are in RI?


Dan said:

Kudos to Christy and Roxus who set the record straight. Ms. Loppi showed a lot more courage and compassion than many pet owners in Rhode Island. Narla was obviously very well cared for and just the fact that she moved the cat before the grandstanders arrived is to be applauded reducing the animals stress level by being proactive. Hopefully Narla will be happy in her new surroundings once acclimating from the travel of stress and new digs. Again, Ms. Loppi did the right thing. She should be held in high regard for properly taking care of her late husband’s pet. Wish more RI pet owners would take the same care!


ONwatch said:

OK, it sort of makes sense now. The owner had a well-cared for pet and she wanted to place it in a good environment now that both were getting older. Sounds like it was always under control. But how did ‘Animal Planet’ become a part of this story?

Leave the people alone now. The show is over. Losing a husband, then a pet. Let her alone. People ARE weird.

Are we sure it wasn’t Brian Fellows from Safari Planet who was supposed to have shown up?
: )


Ed said:

There are wild mountain lions (cougars, pumas) or whatever you want to call them, living in rural Rhode Island. I and others have seen them and there tracks. If you don’t understand animals or rural living, then you should stay in the suburbs or the city. Rural means woods, animals and folks who know and love living out here. Those of you who want to come and “change” it should stay where you are. I was under the impression that it was illegal to keep wild creatures in captivity in Rhode Island. If it’s not, it should be.


Narla Update said:

Ms. Loppi just talked with the professional transporters and Narla is enjoying her ride to Florida. Purring, happy and content. She will be having Chicken and Beef for dinner.


animal lover said:

good for the owner and the lion 13 years and no problems,people can not even say that about humans.i wish i had known earlier i would have liked nala myself.i guess if you do not own have animals you will never understand.we need more people like this in the world.good luck nala my donation is on its way


meow13 said:

This cat may have been very well taken care of – but a wild animal should not be kept in a back yard in a cage – no matter how nice the cage. I am glad she is going to a sanctuary. I hope she has the skills to interact with other animals.


Red said:

While i never met the cougar Im confident she was a wonderful companion. I throughtly support having her in captivity as Im quite sure she was bred in captivity and never knew any other life.The fact is many exotics are bred in captivity and and can be associated with humans.Despite what the animal rights whackos say . For all those that say we may be attacked by the “exotic”animal somebody owns, all I will say is far more people are attacked by domestic dogs than any exotic animal (pit bull)Trueit is a good idea to be knowledgable about what your doing, but if yur willing to invest in the time and energy and money and knowlege in having an exotic you should be allowed to. To the folks that are so worried about what other exotic animal somone might own I suggest they stay right her in RI,its far more common for people to have various exotics down south and out west.I raise exotics myself.


Nuts said:

What kind of nuts are these people ??? This even gets nuttier Christy write she has know the cat for 12 years… Why don’t you and the cat sign up for let’s say Oprah’s book club, or maybe a single’s cruise…..


Jasmyne said:

Wow!I’m doing a social studies assignment where I have to give my opinion, and that would be that this is crazy! Only 2 layers of fence? Now would if it got out? It is still a wild animal… although I think it is rather nice of them to take care of the lion. Infact, my grandfather had a tiger when he was a kid, but the tiger was sadly shot because he kept eating their neighbors sheep (this was in Texas). I have always had a great love for animals, but I wouldn’t trust a wild animal o live in my backyard, especially after the inncodent that happened with the chipaneeze.


Hodgey said:

Good Luck.

Most of the animals that live in RI are of the two legged species and are far more dangerous that a Mountain Lion.

Statistics prove that out.


Mike said:

All I want to say is Mrs Loppi did a wonderful job raising this animal, she had all the legal paperwork and it was no one’s business to tell her she can’t have her pet cat. Narla was in very good condition and well taken care of, she was very happy and content where she was. There was not one issue in the 13 years she owned her. If you don’t know all the facts please go to cartoonnetwork.com and do what you do best. Please feel free to criticize me all you want but leave that poor woman alone, she has been through enough in her life.
I am sorry you have to go through this Mrs Loppi but just hang in there and stay strong.


Kittie652 said:

It is currently illegal to keep native wild animals in the state of Rhode Island. However, bear in mind that in many states the laws differentiate between “wild” and “exotic,” although such a distinction is in most cases impracticable. It was legal 13 years ago to own a mountain lion with the proper permits, as issued by the RI DEM. Also, remember, almost every animal kept as a pet, outside of livestock, cats and dogs, is exotic or wild, and in many cases it is no more humane to own a Macaw that was taken from the wild (and even when not) than it is to own a mountain lion.
Than being said, there are many states in this country that either permit or do not prevent, private individuals to own “exotic” wild animals, and the black market trade in exotic pets is enormous and has severe negative effects on these animals’ populations and our global ecosystem. For every one “exotic” animal that is sold, many, many more die from stress, disease, abuse and poor handling. If you have concerns with laws permitting private individuals to own exotic animals, please notify your congressmen and educate yourself by going to the websites of leading organizations such as The Wildlife Society and The World Wildlife Foundation.


Wendy said:

I had the pleasure of knowing Narla since the day my friend picked her out. I fed her as a cub, held her and loved her. The owner was a conscientious, careful man who went to great lengths to ensure that the public would not be affected by her. This included training, double-fences and many other security features at his home.
Now that she is where she should be right now, let’s let it go and let this poor man, who loved his cat, rest in peace.
Love and miss you Rob 🙁

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