Report from Chris Smith
I was chatting to someone about the so-called mystery big cats and not so big cats this week, and he said that until it was proven that cats such as pumas were living in the wild the authorities would not accept their existence. I think the truth must be the very opposite to that. Their existence has been proven several times so what do the authorities really want? Perhaps to capture or kill the name-tagged ones, the "Beast of Exmoor", the "Bodmin Big-Cat" and the "Dartmoor Beast". Mind you there's more than one of each and several groups and individuals out to prove their existence right now for TV programmes and at least two books that I know of. Isn't it strange how "the Beast" has most sinister connotations in this context yet schoolchildren being taught about insects and other small creatures know them these days by the term mini-beasts, with the word beast taking on an almost fun feel to it.
If the existence of mystery cats has 'not been proven' then why have the authorities ignored the following evidence that such species do or did exist in the wild? "Did", in that they are now dead with at least three of these preserved by taxidermy.
True, the swamp cats and leopard cat are not big cats in terms of size but the pumas were fully grown, not cubs. In my view, this is evidence. Indeed,if it is not then what is the point of killing another if once they are dead the evidence is ignored?
Correctly speaking a puma is not a big cat, but the largest of the small cats, averaging 5ft (150cm) head and body length, plus a tail of about 28ins (70cm). Pumas stand at around 28ins at the shoulder. But pumas are not black. If the species has given rise to a melanistic morph which has produced a black variety, which I believe scientists would agree is a most radical concept, then we could be looking at a single, dimorphic species, that is to say one which has two individual colour morphs. I am quite certain that as well as pumas being on the loose there are also black leopards or panthers,as they are often called, for in certain lights the rosettes of darker patterning in the pelage have briefly shown, as they do in some of the black or melanistic leopards. Having seen some of the black cats myself, I maintain that they are leopards and that they do not even look like pumas, which are quite different. That being said, there are a lot of people attempting to track the cats down at present, including the military, various media groups including TV and radio, and non-media people hoping to film one or more of the animals.
One such is Danny Bampling, a skilled underwater and terrestrial cameraman who runs a company called Future-Planet. Danny first contacted me some years ago and has certainly travelled the UK and the world seeking work and adventure since I first heard from him. Dr Karl Shuker,the well-known cryptozoologist writer, is also eagerly awaiting news on the cat phenomena which has even reached into the heart of the West Midlands with reported sightings less than a mile from where he lives, associated I believe with railway routes, a not uncommon situation actually as railways used and disused provide useful rights of way for animals on the move. The Beeching Axe was a friendly weapon for some of us walkers, cyclists and wildlife, but I would rather it had not fallen, and that the old railway routes remained intact and well used. Well, good luck to Danny Bampling and those trying to prove there are more cats about. There are more, of course, put there by escape and or release situations - by people, in fact, and that's where something should be done by the Government. If the military and other bodies including the police have to spend time on seeking unusual cat species in the countryside it is an intolerable waste of public money. Read Dr Karl Shuker's book on the subject, 'Mystery Cats of the World, from Blue Tigers to Exmoor Beasts' (Robert Hale, London). A truly fine book, unputdownable is the word. This is the way to write about mystery cats. 'And some!
December 14 th 1999
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