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In the Media

article imageThe Australian 'Panther' - It’s actually a cat, but what a cat

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By Paul Wallis
Dec 26, 2008 in Environment
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In Australian folklore for years have been tales of mysterious Panthers. I’ve seen one, written about it, and they’re one of the most beautiful things you could ever wish to see. Finally, someone’s got a photo.
30 years ago, I was freezing, and walking home to my place on the South Coast of New South Wales. I went past a little shopping plaza called The Lobster Pot Plaza on the Princes Highway. It was about 1 AM, and I was too cold to be “merry”, because it gets bitterly cold down there in winter.
There, looking into a garbage bin, was the biggest cat I’ve ever seen. It was the size of a sawn off border collie, at least 4 feet long. To give you some idea of the size, the garbage bin is about waist high on me, and I’m six feet tall.
The cat was resting comfortably with its “elbows” on the top of the garbage bin, and its neck extended into the bin. It heard me, and looked casually in my direction.
I say casually, because if there was one obvious thing about this cat, it wasn’t worried about a human presence. Nor did it have anything to worry about. I was so stunned by the sight of the thing I was speechless.
For those who don’t know, normal feral kittens can tear biker gauntlets to pieces. An adult feral cat is completely uncontrollable, and dangerous, let alone a giant feral cat. I wasn’t about to indulge in fisticuffs.
The other striking thing about this cat was its sheer beauty. Imagine a giant Siamese, jet black, and you’ll get the idea. This one had large back legs, too, suitable for any self respecting wallaby, and the general impression was of grace with a lot of real power. Stunning sight.
For the last few decades, I’ve been trying to find a reference to any cat which vaguely resembles it. There aren’t any. All I’ve been able to figure out for sure is that it’s definitely not Panthera, it’s Felis, all cat, but big. The jaw shapes of cats and the Panthera, including panthers, lions, tigers, etc, are quite different. Cats have more triangular jaws, where as they have relatively square jaws.
The Daily Telegraph has a photo of the “panther”, which if mine was any yardstick is a juvenile, and not as much of an athlete:
"They've become more active, males and females, in the past few weeks and months as they look to breed," Mr Gilroy said. (Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy)
Although there is no hard evidence the creatures exist, residents have become so frightened that the Department of Primary Industries has commissioned a report on the cats, due early next year.
"The DPI is currently putting together a report following recent concerns from residents living in the Grose Vale area," a spokeswoman said. "The report will look at a range of options, as well as a review of the existing evidence."
“Although there is no evidence the creatures exist….” typical suburbanite jargon from people who think a flower pot is an African jungle and have never gone anywhere near the Australian bush.
The evidence is about 100 years of bush lore, from all over the east coast and eastern inland. The residents have nothing to fear from these animals, they’ve got better things to do with their time than get into disputes with humans.
I left a comment on the Daily Telegraph article and suggested that they call it
Felis Australis Elegans, The Elegant Australian Cat.
The DT article also includes comments from other sightings.
I don’t know what they’re worrying about. If they get enough scientific proof, we’ve got a creature which will rival kangaroos, dingoes and koalas as a tourist attraction.
Which is another environmental point. The cats are living in areas where feral dog packs called Superdogs, and sometimes dingoes, are also living. That’s unusual, because dingoes exterminate their competition (they routinely eat foxes and other feral cats) and the Supercats are obviously doing quite well, despite them.
Let’s see if science can catch up with what we Aussies have all known for years.
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