Report from Chris Smith
WILD big cats roaming the Scottish countryside could start attacking people unless action is taken to trap them, a leading animal expert warned yesterday.
Zoologist Quentin Rose, 42, claims dozens of pumas, lynx and leopards were released into the wild by animal collectors in the Seventies when private owner ship became illegal.
The former zoo keeper believes up to 100 are now breeding in the wild through-out the UK, and are living off a diet of deer, badgers, rabbits and livestock.
But he Claims unless the beasts are trapped soon, their numbers will spiral out of control. As they adapt to life in Britain, he fears they will develop a taste for slow, two-legged prey which is easy to catch - man.
The professional dangerous animal trapper and consultant said yesterday: "If these animals are not captured, it is only a matter of time before somebody is killed. People are going out trying to shoot these animals but the percentage of wounded cats which turn into man-eater's is very high.
"It is the governments responsibility to ascertain the number of animals out there. A scientific trapping programme has to be set up. We cannot wait until the big cat population gets any bigger"
Mr. Rose says most of the big cats he believes are roaming the countryside were released by private collectors after he introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in 1976.
He explained, "most of them were released by private owners. There were hundred's if not thousand's of animals in private owner-ship mostly kept as a status symbol."
"In 1976 owners could either buy an expensive licence, give the animal to a zoo or have it put down. Ten people have already admitted releasing them in the south-west of England alone."
The SSPCA said yesterday it was aware of big cat sightings throughout the country but felt Mr. Rose's fears were alarmist. A spokeswomen said: "There may be big cats in the wild but they do not pose a threat to people."
Daily Mail: 5 th February 1998
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