Are big cats like black panthers and leopards really roaming the UK?

Are big cats like black panthers and leopards really roaming the UK?

A melanistic leopard or “black panther” in Laikipia, Kenya – not the UK

Chris Brunskill/Getty Pictures

Rumours of huge cats, resembling leopards and mountain lions, dwelling wild within the UK have been effervescent for many years. Now, reported DNA proof of a black leopard (Panthera pardus) in Gloucestershire and a latest spate of eye-witness accounts have renewed curiosity in the concept massive felines roam the nation. Here’s what we find out about these thriller cats.

Are there large cats roaming wild within the UK?

The time period “large cat” usually refers to species that belong to the genus Panthera, resembling lions, jaguars and leopards. Nevertheless, cheetahs, lynxes and cougars – also called mountain lions – are generally related to the phrase.

There are a couple of circumstances of such animals being seen within the UK, resembling a puma captured in 1980 and a lynx shot by a farmer in 1991, however, in keeping with the UK’s Division of Surroundings, Meals and Rural Affairs (Defra), there was no credible proof of huge cats offered to Pure England, a public physique chargeable for the safety of England’s pure setting, in latest many years.

“If we have been offered with credible data to recommend there was a giant cat dwelling wild and posing a menace to public well being and security, we might report the matter to the native police and the Dwelling Workplace,” a Defra spokesperson informed New Scientist.

However a handful of individuals disagree with this official evaluation. This consists of Rick Minter, the host of the Huge Cat Conversations podcast, who believes the proof strongly suggests the presence of huge felines within the UK countryside.

The place are they and what number of are there?

Alleged sightings of huge cats have been reported throughout the UK. The British Huge Cats Society says that it receives between 500 to 600 stories a yr, however these are largely unverified and nameless. Freedom of knowledge requests to UK police forces have additionally revealed a small variety of stories over the previous decade.

The majority of the stories have been of black leopards, also called panthers, says Minter. Round 15 per cent of sightings are of sandy-coloured cats, which might be mountain lions (Puma concolor), says Minter, and the remaining 5 per cent are of lynxes.

To maintain a secure and wholesome inhabitants, there would in all probability should be at the least 300 people of every species, says Minter. There is no such thing as a proof of this although.

Is there any proof, past reported sightings?

Nothing agency, regardless of the variety of individuals saying they’ve seen large cats. “There needs to be scientific proof to again all of this up,” says Andrew Hemmings on the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, UK.

One technique to determine the presence of those cats is to have a look at the carcasses of animals resembling foxes, deer and sheep; Hemmings and his colleagues have analysed over 100 carcasses. Thus far, solely 4 exhibit tooth marks, also called tooth pits, that recommend the involvement of a medium-to-large feral cat.

These analyses alone can’t present definitive proof although. “The gold commonplace can be to mix what we’re seeing with our tooth-pit evaluation with verified DNA proof,” says Hemmings.

Do we now have DNA proof?

Documentary producer Dragonfly Movies lately claimed to have discovered the primary DNA proof for a giant cat in Gloucestershire. Hemmings and Minter are optimistic concerning the declare, however others are sceptical.

“Except they really recorded how that hair pattern was captured and examined, [the claim] may have a gray cloud over it,” says Danny Bamping on the British Huge Cats Society.

If the massive cats do exist, are they harmful?

There have been no confirmed incidences of untamed large cats attacking individuals or their pets within the UK.

“If given the selection, they might all the time keep away from human contact,” says Hemmings. “For my part, they pose a negligible threat to individuals.”


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