Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Mysterious big cats

Darren Naish discusses the evidence for anomalous big cats(ABCs) in the UK. He warns that there is a lot of stigma against the study of ABCs, with academics often thinking it is a crackpot field inhabited by the lunatic fringe. Nevertheless, there is a surprising amount of good solid evidence for the existence of big cats (some of which aren't really that big) living wild in the UK, and by implication, other places.

It’s often said that, if ABCs are real, then why don’t we have good photos, why don’t we have dead bodies, why don’t we have captured live animals, and why don’t we have definitive track and sign evidence? Well, the news is that we do have good photos, we do have dead bodies, we do have captured live animals, and we do have definitive track and sign evidence. This data is out there for anyone that’s prepared to examine it. Why isn’t this more widely known? That’s the mystery. The negative stigma attached to the subject seems to mean that the good data doesn’t really get out, at least to those people who haven’t gone to the trouble of immersing themselves in the subject.

On the dead bodies:

They include several Jungle cats Felis chaus, five Leopard cats Prionailurus bengalensis, and a Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, shot dead in East Sussex in 1991 (Shuker 1995). The lynx is particularly interesting as the case was pretty much kept quiet until 2001. I don’t hold much faith in conspiracy theories, but the farmer who shot this animal was told by the police to keep it to himself. In fact it’s not difficult to think that, if any official body (say, the police, or the government) does know that ABCs are an undoubted reality, they will likely not want this to become widely known.

One has to wonder about the mentality of the officials. What did they think would happen? Riots in the streets because, horror upon horrors, there was a lynx on the loose? Piddly little cover-ups of this sort create a general distrust of officials and the expectation that "they're lying to us" that is far worse than the consequences of honesty.

The fascinating thing is just how adaptable these cats are. One of the most specialist tropical cats in the world, a Clouded Leopard, escaped from Howletts Zoo in 1975 and survived in good condition for nine months until it was shot. It certainly gives added credibility to the hypothesis that pet cougars had escaped from American gold miners and established breeding colonies in Australia.

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