9:59 AM PT -- TMZ spoke to Tiffany Yap of the Center for Biological Diversity -- one of the CA-based orgs spearheading the effort to get mountain lions protected -- and she tells us while it's great that 'Tiger King' has gotten people talking about big cats again, the issue has been at the forefront of Californians' minds for a while ... well before Joe Exotic was intro'd.
She tells us that protecting wildlife is something Californians have shown time and again is of value to them, so she firmly believes the measure on Thursday will pass -- especially because the threat to mountain lions is so very real ... something residents here are not oblivious to.
Tiffany points out that Californians have already passed a previous measure in the '90s to ban the sport hunting of mountain lions, which was a grassroots initiative. Bottom line ... she says Californians have long shown protecting big cats is important to them, and suggests the type of animal exploitation portrayed in 'Tiger King' ain't something that'd fly here.
She stops short of saying we're ahead of the curve on the issue -- but let's just say California knows what's up. Here's hoping that same spirit carries through in Thursday's vote.
California officials will vote on a renewed hot button issue -- protecting local big cats -- and you gotta imagine ... 'Tiger King' will be at the forefront of everybody's minds for it.
The California Fish and Game Commission is scheduled to have the matter before them on Thursday, where they'll decide if mountain lions in Southern and Central California deserve state-mandated protections afforded to animals under the Endangered Species Act.
The effort to get these West Coast big cats that protection has been in the works for about a year, with several environmentalists, zoologists and different animal foundations having submitted petitions to move the item forward. Now, it's on the Commission's agenda.
Of course, the vote probably couldn't have at a better time ... seeing how Joe Exotic and co. just swept the nation and has most everyone -- especially Californians -- talking about tigers, lions and the like. Long story short ... we fully anticipate hearing 'Tiger King' on Thursday.
As for what these protections will do if passed by the CFGC ... it'll actually be a great boon to keeping mountain lions alive as humans continue to build out our own world. According to the Center for Biological Diversity -- which is helping spearhead the vote -- mountain lions could potentially get their own wildlife crossings built ... above freeways.
There are other protections the big cats would receive, and frankly ... it sounds like a great idea. The question now ... how much thanks would Joe and his tigers get if this goes through?