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Big cat sightings

I read with interest the recent article by Jackie Drakeford Mysterious sightings (8 September) in which she pours scorn on evidence of big cats in Britain. Unfortunately, while doubting those who claim to have seen a big cat or who have produced evidence of an animal?s presence, her research into the subject is singularly defi cient. Not one has ever been trapped or snared? she wrote, so she is presumably unaware of the female puma that was trapped by Ted Noble in Glen Cannich, Invernessshire, on 28 October 1980. Nor is she aware of the puma skull found in Devon.

I have a vast file of press cuttings relating to sightings of pumas or similar, and while I am ready to accept that many of the reports are the result of mistaken identity or simply hoaxes, there is no doubt that there have been hundreds of genuine sightings made by observers who were neither drunk nor mad. Perhaps Ms Drakeford can explain why the late Elizabeth Kinloch identified a large black cat in Hereford, which she watched chasing a dog? She was familiar with big cats, having reared leopard cubs when her husband was a chief game warden in East Africa.

Ms Drakeford claims that photographs and film footage do not exist, but she is wrong. I have a large colour shot of a black big cat, which has been authenticated. Furthermore, I have examined several local sheep kills, which all displayed marks typical of a big cat. They were examined by an experienced vet, who agreed that none bore the evidence of dog or fox kills. Samples are currently being examined for DNA evidence.

There is, in fact, ample evidence of a small population of big cats at large in this country, almost certainly descended from the many released into the wild once private zoos had to be licensed. I suggest that, as a journalist, Jackie Drakeford should at least make some attempt to provide a balanced picture and to investigate the facts.

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