By Eamonn Duff
Cats Not a Tall Tale
Witnesses credible, existence
likey, says official 'panther 'report.
A STATE Government inquiry has
found it is "more likely than not" a colony of "big cats"
is roaming Sydney's outskirts and beyond.
The revelations are the result of a fresh four-month
investigation into the "black panther phenomenon" which for
years has plagued residents across Sydney's west, north-west, Richmond,
the Blue Mountains' and Lithgow.
While National Parks and Wildlife officials
are yet to implement a positive course of action, a senior source confirmed
last night a big cat expert had been contacted with a view to future work.
He said: " While we still haven't got conclusive
evidence that the creature exists, compiled evidence points strongly to
the fact that it does."
The source added: "If and when an expert
is commissioned, the first aim would be to identify exactly what sort
of animal it is. The second would be to ascertain how many there might
Although big cat sightings across NSW date back
more than 100 years, speculation intensified in May 2001 when a successful
Freedom of Information request revealed the NSW Government had been maintaining
a secret file on the creature.
It also revealed wildlife hierarchy were so
concerned, about the potential threat to humans that they commissioned
big cat expert Dr Johannes Bauer to evaluate what 'had previously been
deemed unthinkable. He concluded: "Difficult as it seems to accept,
the most likely explanation of the evidence. . .is the presence of a large
While conclusive proof has failed to materialise
since, sightings have continued to flow in from bushwalkers, tourists
and local residents, including a NSW police officer and a Qantas pilot.
When Kenthurst teenager Luke Walker suffered
deep cuts in March this year and said they were the result of a terrifying
struggle with a panther-like cat, the NSW Government reopened the case.
The latest report, compiled by NSW Agriculture
and obtained exclusively by The Sun-Herald, included a review of sightings
and extensive interviews with residents of Grose Vale, where the creature
has frequently been sighted.
It found that recent witnesses to big cat activity
in NSW were highly credible.
Also taken into consideration was a previous
report by Dr Keith Hart, district veterinarian of the Moss Vale Rural
Lands Protection Board, who, after testing scat samples, concluded a large
cat was living in the GroseVale area.
The report said: "Nothing found in this
review conclusively proves the presence of free-ranging exotic large cats
in NSW, but this cannot be discounted and seems more likely than not on
One theory the report refused to dismiss was
that "historically, sightings in Eastern Australia occur on old gold
mining areas and that anecdotal evidence suggests pumas [Felis concolor]
were brought to Australia by American goldminers in the 1850's.
The report added: "These animals may have
subsequently escaped or were released, causing numerous sightings over
Even as the Government was preparing to go public
with its latest findings, a Central Coast family approached NSW Agriculture
last month with claims that a huge blackcat was "openly roaming"
their newly purchased Mudgee weekend holiday home.
Speaking to The Sun-Herald, Chris, who refused
to reveal her surname through fear of would-be hunters overrunning her
property, said: "We've watched it stalk wallabies, we've seen it
sitting high up in a tree. It roams around like a huge family dog that
thinks it owns the place."
She added: "There is absolutely no disputing
what it is. The kids are terrified and, to be perfectly honest, so are