Report from Chris Smith
Police from Haddington searched the area thoroughly in the company of locals but were unable to find any trace of the animal which has been named "The Beast of Lammermuir".
The big cat was spotted at Nunraw Abbey, near the village of Gifford in East Lothian. It was seen by a gamekeeper, Brian McIntyre who shot at the beast which then fled. Mr McIntyre thought that the beast had been wounded and called the police.
Normally the big cats seen in the wild are not thought to pose a serious threat to humans, preferring to flee rather than attack. However, people have claimed to have been attacked on at least six occasions in the past ten years. In this case the animal is presumed to be wounded and in pain and is therefore potentially very dangerous. Police are therefore advising the public not to approach or corner the animal. Parents are advised to take especial care for the safety of young children who might attempt to aid what to them appears to be an injured pet.
Zoologist Quintin Rose, who has made a study of big cats in the UK said 'The threat to humans is greatest when an animal has been wounded, maimed and unable to hunt its normal prey. Often the first person they attack is the person who shot them. They get a taste for human flesh and go on attacking humans.' Mr Rose also commented 'In their native habitat a single leopard that has acquired a taste for human flesh can kill hundreds of people before being caught. In Delhi zoo there are eight man-eating leopards.'
This is not the first time a big cat has been seen in the Lammermuirs. In June 1982, what was thought to be a puma was seen stalking sheep in a field at Garvald Mains Farm while a few days later, a monk at the nearby Nunraw Abbey reported that he had seen the animal run across open fields. Over the period of four or five years in the 1970s, there were sketchy reports of a puma spotted regularly in the North Berwick area.
There have been a large number of sightings of big cats in the hills around Edinburgh this year.
In West Lothian a big cat was seen at Whitburn in January and at Boghall in March and April.
In February and March there were five different sightings of a large cat near Silverburn in the Pentland hills.
In March, there was even a sighting in the capital city itself when a big cat was spotted in woods beside Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh.
In April and May there were further sightings of big cats in the Pentlands at Balerno.
Some local residents have expressed alarm at the apparent explosion of the big cat population in the Lothians. However, experts believe that the numerous sightings of big cats this year are due to, at most, three or four cats and possibly a single animal.
If they are correct, the Beast of Lammermuir, the Beast of West Lothian and the Beast of the Pentlands could be one and the same.
July 18 th 1997
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