Friday 20 July 2012

Latest July reports - back to black!

July has been a very busy month for sightings. There have been several reports from Higham, Battle (East Sussex), Chartham, Headcorn and Shadoxhurst at Ashford. All sightings involved black leopard. The Shadoxhurst report involved a witness who, whilst looking out of her window at 6:00 am saw an enormous black cat rummaging through the sacks she'd placed at the end of her drive. The woman woke her husband, and so intrigued was she by the animal she went outside but the animal slinked away. She believed the cat was after a shoulder of lamb that had been deposited in the sack. The Chartham report concerned a male motorist who saw a fox-sized black cat (not a domestic/feral cat) that crossed the road in front of him and another motorist saw a black leopard whilst recently travelling on the Ulcombe Road into Headcorn during daylight.

It's worth noting just how many reports are received of black leopards and not what people would term 'normal' leopards with then rosette pelage. Some researchers would claim that 'spotted' leopard reports are as frequent as those of the melanistic variety but this simply isn't the case. Kent Big Cat Research has NEVER received a report of a normal leopard, in more than 25 years of research every sighting has been of the melanistic variety. This is clearly a dominant gene - a majority of leopards kept as pets in the '60s were of the darker coat - black parents only produce black offspring due to the recessive gene, hence the fact that black squirrels and foxes are scant. The occasional reports received of smaller spotted cats would suggest the Leopard Cat.

Reports of so-called 'big cats' must be analysed on their consistency levels. If people start to report lions, cheetahs, jaguars and tigers, then it seems clear that in most cases these are hoaxes, misidentification or an escapee from the zoo. The consistent reports across the UK strongly suggest black leopard, puma and lynx, as well as smaller cats such as the Jungle Cat and Leopard Cat. Reports of normal leopards, tigers, lions etc, must be taken with a pinch of salt until there are further reports. This is the problem with a lot of 'big cat' research in the UK - too many sightings that are taken as fact of clearly impossible or unlikely species. If only 1 report of a normal leopard is received among 1000 black leopard reports, then the normal leopard sighting must be ruled until others come forward to report it, the same can also be said for reports of bizarre mutants, albino cats and other alleged melanistic species.

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