Big Cats in Australia

                                                         Big Cats in Australia

A report recently released by the NSW Department of Agriculture found it was ``more likely than not'' large feral cats were present in NSW. The panel that came to this conclusion was made up of experts from Taronga Zoo, the Australian Museum, National Parks and Wildlife, Moss Vale Rural Lands Protection Board and NSW Agriculture.
Reports of large black cats - too big to be dogs or domestic cats gone wild - have been reported in almost every state of Australia. Farm animals have been gutted and mauled, leaving farmers out of pocket and flocks and herds substantially diminished in states such as NSW and Victoria.

The Australian bush provides an ideal habitat for big cats - such as lions, tigers and panthers - offering dense vegetation as camouflage and a smorgasbord of native and similarly feral wildlife to feast upon, not to mention the more standard fare available from neighbouring rural/regional land holdings populated by sheep, cattle and other stock. We believe it's only a matter of time before these rogue big cats move up the food chain for their next meal. And here's a hint, it walks on two legs...
The Hunt
Finding and collecting evidence of Australian big cats is hard work. Being willing and able is all well and good, but getting to the `evidence' in time is another challenge altogether.

Not only is gathering the evidence a race against time - trying to thwart the inevitable decay of suspected big cat 'kill' victims such as livestock and wildlife; attempting to get DNA samples before carcasses are interfered with by humans or other fauna, thereby contaminating the sample; beating the odd chequebook journalist to the witnesses/sites before said contamination takes place; getting there before samples mysteriously 'disappear' into the great, nameless government vault/garbage bin - its also a drain on the hip pocket.

PCR testing, where we try to match the mystery DNA to a known species of animal, is not cheap, neither is petrol (now averaging a $1.10 a litre in most parts of Australia) or lost work time. Nevertheless, this is one mystery we're keen to get to the bottom of!
So if you have seen a big cat, spotted strange tracks, heard strange coughing/roaring/yowling noises that don't fall into the natural vocal range of our wildlife or found dead animals that bear unusual wounds/marks - please email us here! Historical accounts are also appreciated.

We will endeavour to either handle your enquiry ourselves or put you in touch with some trustworthy, sane knowledgable individuals in your state who know what they're on about. Remember, where recent samples are concerned, time and a lack of contamination are of the essence.
The Proof
A database has been compiled by private citizens recording 100 sightings of the animal, reports of deep scratch marks on trees and examples of farm animals found gutted. Hard evidence of the existence of big cats in the lower Blue Mountains of NSW includes:

- Dr Hart, a veterinarian from the Rural Lands Board, who believes that scat samples are evidence of a large cat - "it wasn't a feral cat, fox or dog scat". He also stated "the most likely explanation of the evidence listed "is the presence of a large feline predator in this area, most likely a leopard".
- A secured deer carcass three metres above ground was predated by "an unknown animal capable of climbing a tree and holding on with claws, there were significant claw marks".
- The hindquarters of a sheep that had damage consistent with the claws of a large cat.
- Dr Johannes Bauer, who has wide experience in large cat surveys overseas, concluded "difficult as it seems to accept, the most likely explanation of the evidence is the presence of a large feline predator".
- A scientist working on contract for NPWS collected plaster prints in the Bilpin area which "appeared to be made by a large cat".
- A domestic cat killed at Grose Vale by something that crushed its thorax and then leapt about three metres onto the roof of the house.
The unknown animal left more than 50 prints which were "cat-like in form and leopard-sized with no evidence of nail marks associated with the prints. This excludes the possibility that these prints were made by a dog."
- Big cat sightings by residents who previously lived in South Africa and were familiar with large cats, or by residents who have worked as large cat handlers in zoos.
- In just the last seven years, collected sighting reports number more than 100, with another 170 instances of scat samples/tree scratches and predation reports.

It's clear from the evidence collected above by local people and government employees that there is a big cat(s) operating in the lower Blue Mountains area.

But big cats aren't just living and hunting in NSW. A study carried out by Deakin University in Victoria also found indisputable evidence of big cat activity in the mountainous Grampians region. The study concluded "the data collected by the Deakin group support a level of credibility for the proposition that a big cat population is established in the Grampians of south-west Victoria that is beyond reasonable doubt".