Dr Iain Old: Are the exotic cats which are reported to be roaming the countryside dangerous? Are there any records of a human being having been threatened or attacked by these animals?
Danny Nineham Yes certainly. I've dealt with 11 injuries - not life-threatening yet; three children, the rest adults. One would have been life threatening but the man was very lucky to survive.
george: Hi Danny, George Markie from the Scottish Big Cats team here, just wondering what sort of technology you guys are using ?
Danny Nineham Hi George. I'm using my legs and my brains! I'm not a high tech character. I'm someone who goes out, looks at evidence first hand and makes decisions on what I see but we are actually using trigger cameras - we started using them where we know the cat is travelling regularly in the area. We fix the camera so it can work when I'm not there, 24 hours a day.
Christina Smith: Were these attacks by dogs or cats?
Danny Nineham The ones I've dealt with, there's no doubt in mind they were cats.
Terry: Where is the Big Cat Hotspot at the moment?
Danny Nineham Well, where I live in the Forest of Dean, Gwent - and all over Wales really. Most sightings are in Gwent Gloucestershire, North Wales, West Wales... Those are the chief areas I cover, purely because of costs really.
george: One thing I've noticed up here is that some cats do seem to have regular habits (except when I'm looking for them!). Have you noticed anything similar in your area?
Danny Nineham Yes I have. They have got certain areas. I log and interview every individual who has a sighting and I transfer that info on to ordinance survey maps. At the end of a year, that tells me the cat is using a home range on a regular basis and from that info we can get to know where the cats are roaming and how many there are. That's my method.
Danny Nineham They are creatures of habit.
John Murray, Scottish Big Cat Team: Danny, first of all I'd like to wish you well with the launch of the new society and I hope it is a success and can I ask, what the aims of the organisation are and how you hope to achieve them?
Danny Nineham I'm keeping it under wraps at the moment...
Jane Ellis: What proportion of the cats reported to you are black?
Danny Nineham I would say, for example over the last couple of years about 90 per cent are black. That's because black stands out. It's conspicuous out in the fields, whereas brown blends in more.
Lucy Ashton: Do you agree with Di Francis's theory that there is an unknown (to science) species of British Big cat?
Danny Nineham No. I don't. After studying video evidence, photographic evidence and my own sightings, I'm convinced that they are black panthers, pumas, lynx... I beg to differ with Di Francis until I'm presented with evidence to the contrary!
george: How do you find local people react to cats? The attitude I keep coming across is "we don't bother them and they don't bother us", I've even heard of a farmer who is delighted he has a cat nearby as it keeps the rabbits away from his crops.
Danny Nineham If you're dealing with my area, I've interviewed hundreds of people over the last 10 years and I find that unless I'm dealing with people who have a first hand problem with cats, for instance, when they've killed livestock or injured people, they haven't got an opinion. It's just a sighting - there's a lack of education about the question. Hence I am currently educating primary schools, secondary schools, nature trusts and so forth. The young will have to live with new neighbours - the big cats aren't going to go away!
dingo: I heard today about a dairy farmer in Oz having lost 200 cattle to big cats - are there other places where big cats have escaped other than Britain that are now living in the wild ?
Danny Nineham Places I know of include England, Scotland and Ireland. Many European countries have the same problem, and of course Australia! America, Africa and Asia have native cats anyway. We've only had one example here of a cat killing two cattle in Pembridge, Hereford.
Terry: If they are not leopards or the like, what type of cat do you think they are?
Danny Nineham I do think they're leopards. A leopard is a panther with a black coat. I'm positive that's what they are.
Philip: How is it possible that none have been captured on film yet or more solid proof found if they are so widely spread across Britain?
Danny Nineham I've got buckets full of proof ! My aim is to write a book and show all this finally, rather than hand it out a bit here and there. I haven't released much of my material. In ten years of doing this, I wanted to prove that these cats exist and I've done that.
Jane Ellis: Have you found any evidence that suggests big cats are breeding in Wales, Danny?
Danny Nineham Chiefly, it's eyewitness testimony - including police personnel - of mothers with cubs. There was a recent sighting at Goldcliff near Newport; the police rang me the morning it happened. There are lots of sightings of young in the Forest of Dean.
Craig Thomson: With government funding could definitive evidence be collected that would result in a change in the laws concerning dangerous wild animals in the UK?
Danny Nineham Definitely. I fund myself and have done for ten years. If you could do this fulltime, you could achieve a lot more. If I had my way, there'd be a change in the law. You're not going to eradicate them. I'd educate people and have signs, like they do in America, saying 'this is Leopard and Puma country'.
Simon: What did you make of the sighting recently in Newport, Wales?
Danny Nineham: I was dealing with that three years ago; we had the same incident on the same small holding. As with everything, it went away and over the three years there were at least 10 sightings in that place. Nothing ever came of it. It's a wetland sanctuary; the cats go down there at certain times of the year because it's a food source - ducks and wildfowl.
Terry: Has DEFRA acknowledged that there are big cats in Wales?
Danny Nineham I dealt with MAFF for years, who didn't take much notice. With every case we dealt with, they told the farmers - 'it's badgers and foxes'.
Craig Thomson: Danny would you mind if I told everyone about the BEFS trigger camera project in very loose terms so they could understand the research work we are doing to gain evidence.
Danny Nineham: I don't really want to do it before we've got an organisation set up... :)
george: Without trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist do you think the authorities know more than they admit too?
Danny Nineham: Definitely. These things are covered up. At the end of the day, it's down to money. Once it's someone's responsibility, it's going to cost millions to sort it out. Until someone is killed, they'll ignore the matter.
Claire: How long do big cats last for? Isn't it too cold for them over here?
Danny Nineham The cat is the most adaptable mammal ever. It can live in hot deserts, and really extreme cold climates. The UK is perfect for them!
VIV: How do these cats breed as smaller domestic cats must surely be too small to mate with?
Danny Nineham A leopard is six feet long with its tail. They eat domestic cats. They don't breed with them - it would be impossible.
m: So how did these cats find each other to breed or did they escape in pairs....?
Danny Nineham They leave scent marks everywhere, telling each other of their presence. They scratch trees, and they call to each other.
worried: What should I do if confronted by such a cat - run or stand still?
Big Cat Host: don't run ! EVER ! unless you're Linford Christy :)
Danny Nineham There are different situations. The simple answer is: never run. You'll trigger the cat and mouse instinct; it goes on autopilot and it'll just chase you. They can run up to 35 mph - you'd have no chance!
Iain Old: Are there any black pumas?
Danny Nineham I've been researching that for 10 years. Lots of people claim to have seen them, but at the present date no one has ever produced a carcase or a clear photograph to prove they exist in this country or in America. With all the thousands of cats and hunters in the US, they've never shot or caught one. I conclude they don't exist. We could all be proved wrong one day, of course!
matt: Hi Danny, just wondering how often you go out looking for these beasts, or do you only head out when called, or if there's been a sighting?
Danny Nineham Because of time and cost, I only go out when I'm called by police or if a sighting means there could be evidence to gather. I get contacted by hundreds of people, but you can't be everywhere.
Faith: How many people contact you on an average week? Is there a busy season?
Danny Nineham At the end of the year I count up the totals; it can vary from half a dozen a week, half a dozen a day - or you could go a week with nothing. For every month, I get sightings. And for every 50 sightings I get, 50 go unreported.
andy: Where would these cats live in the UK - caves, woodland, old barns?
Danny Nineham Over the last few years, my first hand experience has shown the cats have become very urbanised. Because there is no persecution of these animals, they're the top food predator in this country. They're coming in to our cities, towns and villages to feed on refuse, domestic cats, dogs and pets. This isn't just guesswork; I deal with this every week. Nine out of 10 of the cases I deal with are in people's gardens, schools and streets. It's not out in the wilds anymore. They're following the foxes.
george: How do you regard the media's attitude towards big cats? Do you feel they tend to go for scaremongering rather than the facts?
Danny Nineham Sensationalised, as with most things. Last week in our local paper, a wild boar was knocked down. They're trying to make out it was one of the black beasts which roam the forest...
Iain Old: How many "cat"s are there in the UK all together?
Danny Nineham I've been asked that so many times... and I don't think anyone can know the answer. You'd have to get a huge team of scientists to investigate. I wouldn't hazard a guess myself.
alan: I saw a documentary on TV a while ago which you were on I believe, with an American tracker? At the end he seemed to find lots of your evidence pointing towards dog attacks - did you agree with his findings?
Danny Nineham Of the tracker involved, I'd say that you can't come from Canada for two weeks and come up with the answer. He's used to dealing with puma and lynx in a different country. We've got leopard here. I regretted being involved with that documentary.
Big Cat Host: okay here's Danny with a final word:
Danny Nineham I'm dedicated and serious about my subject. Anyone who meets me knows that! I love it every time I do a talk; I've enjoyed the livechat. The only way forward is to educate people about the subject!
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