Wednesday 2 October 2013

Folkestone black leopard and more...

As usual there have been a number of reports received this past few days, one being from Folkestone, in broad daylight and concerning a young black leopard, witnessed by a woman who used to work at a zoo. The cat in question, described as "no bigger than a Collie but with an extremely long tail and moving fast and low to the ground like a leopard" was flushed out of undergrowth by her dog as she strolled along the Downs. This had been the second day-time sighting of a black leopard in the same area in two weeks. It's likely the cat had not long left its mother and may well have been foraging for food, such as rabbits, in the undergrowth. As the dog entered the foliage the cat speed away with the dog in hot pursuit.

Whilst speaking of Folkestone we came across an intriguing mention of a 'leopard' on the loose as mentioned in the Sheerness Times Guardian of 31st August 1962. We've often stated that despite some thirty years of research regarding so-called 'big cats' in the south-east that we've never received a report of a leopard of normal pelage - only melanistic. However, the report from the STG gives no mention of a 'black cat' or 'panther' and adds, 'Police at Folkestone searched in vain for a leopard. They received a message that a leopard had been seen lurking in a back garden at Shaftsbury Avenue (Folkestone). Inquiries were made at a touring circus in the area but no leopard was missing.' A search for the animal proved fruitless.

There has been a great deal of controversy created over the years regarding which species of cat actually inhabit the wilds of Britain. Lions, cheetahs, tigers, as well as jaguars are highly unlikely unless as escapees which are often recaptured or shot dead. Reports of normal leopards seem sporadic across Britain, with some researchers claiming that such cats would be more difficult to see which is highly unlikely when compared to the melanistic variety which at night would melt into the darkness. Black leopards may stick out more when crossing a field in broad daylight but in their countries of origin such animals are incredibly secretive, more so than those of normal pelage. We've never seen any hard evidence whatsoever to suggest that there are leopards of normal pelage roaming the south-east of Britain. Reports of so-called spotted leopard cubs can be often explained by reports of Leopard Cats, and whilst the very occasional report does come in of cats having unusual colouration, a lack of consistency means that such reports cannot be taken seriously until more people come forward to report such an animal.

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