Saturday, 5 May 2007

Big Cats on A Current Affair

On Friday night A Current Affair aired this piece on The Brady Bunch (despite the wanky name, it actually got a pseudo-serious treatment!). If you missed it, catch it here:

The panther mystery
A Current Affair

Fri 04/05/07
By Brady Halls
Over the past decade we've covered big cat stories roaming the Australian bush many times. More often than not it's been treated by reporters with humour ... well panthers aren't exactly native to these shores are they?
But as the years went on and the stories continued, more and more people from all walks of life began saying they too have encountered panthers in the Aussie bush. Now a team of concerned residents in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney have had enough. They have a data base with over 250 names of local people who've seen the cat or cats in far western Sydney or in the Mountains.
This big cat resident action group is calling on the government to investigate the claims but fear nothing will be done because if they did come out and say there are cats roaming the bush, then they'd have to eradicate them. And if the authorities can't eliminate foxes, what chance a panther?
The group has collected cast paw prints, hair and even scat samples. They've had them tested and each time scientists come back saying panther or leopard. I must say as I walked the bush with these people, strange noises took on a whole new meaning to me. A number of people I spoke to simply don't go out at night. When children come to visit them, they don't let them play outside unless an adult is with them. It's frightening stuff for many in far western Sydney.
So where did these big cats come from if they are out there? Twenty years ago there were a number of private zoos in far western Sydney, but legislation was introduced in the 1980's that required them to be licenced. Those that didn't meet the strict requirements let their animals go, according to the group. Other theories are they came in with visiting US servicemen as mascots in the second World War and even with goldminers who came from overseas during the eighteen hundreds.
Don't think the rest of Australia is big cat free. The Grampians in central Victoria is the Big Cat Capital of Australia, with more sightings there than anywhere else in the country. Big cats have also been seen in central Queensland and the south west of Western Australia.
Add one more to the great Aussie outdoors nasty list: Funnel Webs, Sharks and panthers. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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