Thursday 10 April 2008

Researcher spots black leopard

On Wednesday April 9th at 8:45 am, I was standing on land in Hempstead, behind a close called Cobblestones. It was a clear sunny day, and I was with my father. The area itself, being the back gardens, overlooks Capstone Road and a panoramic view of the fields, and where I stood was land that used to be an old farm shop that kept thousands of chickens.The previous day, I'd watched a fox, around 500 yards away mooching through a field of horses, and the animal was difficult to pick up against the grass. However, on the 9th April, I was walking towards the back fence of a garden and looked up to the back of the field where a fence runs across the horizon. Although around 800 yards away, I could clearly see a black animal moving slowly from right to left. I called to my father and we both stood for a minute and watched the animal.It was long in the body, longer than an Alsatian, but low in the back, and jet-black and it moved completely unlike a dog. On one occasion it stopped, sniffed the ground, and then sat on its haunches. Seconds later the animal walked again, almost weaving along the fence line. It walked past a small gateway and then turned back and slipped through it, out of sight into the foliage.Twenty-five minutes before at the base of the field an elderly gent and a woman were walking their two dogs, a small white terrier and a fox-sized black dog. They reached the top of the field, and walked along a field just behind the fence-line where the cat had prowled. Their dogs were scampering dots in the distance, and moved nothing at all like the animal we observed.We scanned the area for another five hours and a handful of people walked their dogs but again, not in that field but the one behind, and none of the movements of their dogs, or indeed the size, compared to what we'd seen.In 2000 we saw a black leopard on two occasions just a mile or so from that particular area which we determined crosses into Lordswood's Hook Wood, where other sightings have occurred.I would like to hear from anyone who may have been walking their dogs that day because they may have also seen the panther. A week or so previous there had been sightings at Wouldham, Blue Bell Hill and across at Halling.Whilst I consider it a privilege to see such an animal again, I also put it down to very good research!

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