This Easter period has certainly been one of busiest on record regarding sightings of exotic cats throughout Kent. Several investigations are under way, after a lynx was observed in woodland in the Sittingbourne area. The sighting, which took place today (10th April) in broad daylight concerned a group of young children who were walking home when they observed a large 'orange-coloured' cat which was sitting on a log. The children were naturally unsettled by the appearance of the animal and they ran home and told parents. The animal they described matched the description of a lynx, orange-yellowy coat, mottled markings and a white underside to the body. Sightings around the area, although infrequent, date back more than 100 years. Some researchers believe that the lynx - once native to Britain - never fully died out a few thousands of years ago, and that this elusive animal could well have hung on until the modern day, especially after releases into the wilds during the 1960s and '70s.
There has also been more activity of what the press like to call the 'beast of Blue Bell Hill', and this is currently under investigation.
The big concern for parents is that a large cat would attack their children. In the United States the puma, also known as cougar and mountain lion, has been known to attack children, especially those flitting through trees as they run or cycle. In parts of Africa and Asia the leopard has also been known to attack children, particularly in areas that harbour small, forest-based villages. In the UK there's no evidence, as yet, to suggest that large, elusive, predatory cats will attack humans, but as always, it is advised that children, or adults, do not corner, provoke or attempt to injure/capture such an animal. The instinct of a wild animal, when cornered, is to retaliate, in order to free itself from the situation it is in. Whilst a number of researchers may enjoy the seemingly modern mystery of the so-called 'big cat' situation, one must also bear in mind the serious nature of this predicament, in that in the case of black leopard and puma, the UK now harbours animals which should not be there.
It seems highly unlikely that the Department Of Agriculture, and similar groups, will invest money or full-time study into the phenomenon, hence leaving the research up members of the public to collate sightings and evidence. Even so, an attack on a child would no doubt wrench the 'big cat' mystery from the hands of the local researcher and become a matter for the police etc, to handle. An injured or cornered 'big cat' would be a formidable opponent for anyone, and whilst such a reaction would not be the fault of the animal, such an encounter may well evoke a witch hunt, with all manner of terrified parents, hunters, etc, taking to the woodlands attempting to flush out the animal. The huge issue, as always, is the seemingly lack or awareness, and abundant ignorance of the authorities in these situations. It is fair to say, that the authorities do not have the time or money to follow up every alleged 'big cat' sighting, but in numerous cases they have, and we are sure that from a distance such a situation is being monitored, but as in most cases, funding is lacking to conduct projects to prove once and for all that large cats do roam the UK. With this lack of investigation it seems there is always the remote possibility of an attack on a human, and nothing actually being done about it.