Saturday, 24 September 2011

From the files: The Great Storm of 1987

Although popular belief is that the population of 'big cats' in the UK today are the result of animals released after the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act, there have been other incidents which may well have enabled exotic cats to roam the UK. In 1987 a severe storm ripped through Kent - wallabies, monkeys, wild boar, and large cats most certainly escaped into the wilds - some of these (wallaby and boar) establishing themselves. Two conflicting reports from the time claimed that a large cat had escaped from Howeletts Zoo, situated near Canterbury.

From 13/10/87: 'Leopard on loose' - A snow leopard which escaped on Friday from Howletts Zoo, near Canterbury, after a tree crushed its cage, was still at large last night. "So far the animal hasn't been spotted," a Kent police spokesman said.

On 22/10/87 - 'Leopard spotted' - The clouded leopard (?!) which escaped from Mr John Aspinall's zoo near Canterbury, Kent, when a tree crushed its cage during last Fridays storms, was still on the loose last night. Officers said there had been two possible sightings, but attempts to lure it into traps failed.'

It's also worth noting that sightings of a black leopard also seemed to hit the headlines around the time of the storm and for a few years afterwards. See clipping

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