Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Plague of Cats on Your House!

The NT News is a wonderful newspaper. Fond of reporting the UFO scourge that plagues the Northern Territory. Fond of rehashing as headlines decades old stories of the Territory Tiger in order to promote a book.

The earliest account was from 1883 by SA explorer Charles Winnecke. The journal of his exploration on the WA-NT border says Winnecke came across a "wild cat of an extraordinary size".

"The brute was nearly as large as a leopard," he wrote.

Ms Lang said these cats had a lifespan of 20 years - but the sightings have continued for 150 years.

"We know the earliest circus menageries started up around 1850, so it's conceivable that the odd circus cat could have ended up in the bush," she said.

"Transport arrangements were notoriously dodgy back then and escapes happened all the time."

EoR would love to see the evidence of these escapes. But there's even photographic proof of this mythical beast:

Now EoR may just be a closed-minded skeptic disbeliever, but that looks like someone's kitty cat going for a stroll in a Territory backyard. Possibly it's an albino tiger after all, though. Or, as the Centre for Fortean Zoology implies, a lion.

Like evidence of UFOs, when video is taken it's usually shaky, blurry, and short (presumably because the person filming is so terrified their whole body is shaking from fear).

Vision captured yesterday by a resident of the Otway Ranges appears to show a black cat-like animal walking through a paddock.

Occam's Razor would suggest that the most likely explanation for a 'black cat-like animal' would be a black cat. Big Cat chaser Mike Williams describes his challenge:

"But the problem is they're showing several different colour variations of coats. So I have been forced to say there is more than one species of cat, which makes it even harder for me to try and prove."

EoR would have thought multiple species would make it easier. So many more Big Cats, so much easier to find one. Just one. Please. If it's not a Big Cat, then it must be Yowies.

These mythical and elusive beasts are spotted all across Australia, including Western Australia where they range from at least Karridale to Yanchep (though that might be a 'bear' or 'some kind of mutant' so it might not count).

Not only are all these beasts almost invisible, they leave no scats, or bones when they die, just like ghosts.

Where do all these Big Cats come from? People 'theorise' that they might be remnant thylacoleos, that they escape from circuses (now that circuses don't have exotic animals, they'll find it harder to push that one), or that every visiting US Navy ship during the Second World War dumped its panther mascot in the bush (note, not at the port, but they must have deliberately and maliciously transported them to the bush to release them into the wild) or, going even further back, miners who came over from the US to the Australian Gold Rush brought their panthers with them. If you find some of those 'theories' more than slightly silly, you're not alone.

When evidence isn't forthcoming, and doesn't even match the plethora or purported sightings, you could surmise the sightings were wrong. Or, in the classic tradition of deniers everywhere, claim a government cover-up.

But the report didn’t go they way they wanted so they buried it, but an FOI flushed it out. Dr Johannes Bauer, experienced in big cat surveys in China and Nepal and a lecturer in environmental management at the University of Sydney, was asked by the NSW government in 1999 to report on big cat sightings in the area. Bauer examined evidence including photos of mauled livestock, analysis of droppings, casts of paw prints and scratches on trees. His findings were kept secret until they surfaced late last year in the Department of Agriculture report. “Difficult as it seems to accept the most likely explanation of the evidence is the presence of a large feline predator in this area, most likely a leopard, less likely a jaguar “. So, we continue collecting reports and are about to get some dna done on hair samples.

Since a Big Cat would be a top predator in the Australian bush it should have no trouble surviving and, since these reports have appeared for nearly two centuries, they must also be breeding (EoR considers that the likelihood of every passing circus losing a Big Cat or two and covering it up is unlikely). EoR once did a calculation based only on one breeding pair, not living particularly long, not producing large litters each time, and still came up with a figure in the thousands for the number of Big Cats that should now be roaming the bush. Yet they remain as elusive as the Loch Ness Monster. Or the Yowie.

If you're going to venture out into the depths of the Australian Big Cat infested bush, EoR advises you to heed the advice of the NSW Department of Primary Industries: 'Black Cat' identification.

1 comment:

  1. Ah the NT News! The second great reason to move to Darwin.


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