Thursday, 7 Dec 2023

'Clearest ever' picture could prove big cats are prowling the UK countryside

The makers of a new documentary have found what could be the ‘clearest ever’ photo of a wild big cat in the UK.

The picture appears to show a large, muscular black panther-like feline lying in long grass in Smallthorne, Staffordshire.

It was discovered in the files of a zoology organisation, accompanied by a handwritten note dated March 17.

There is no mention of what year it was taken, however.

But experts have described it as ‘probably the best photo of a British big cat that exists’.

The photo is featured in a new award-winning documentary called Panthera Britannia Declassified.

It is one of several pieces of evidence discussed on the TV show that supports the theory on the existence of big cats in the British countryside.

The picture was unearthed by the assistant director of a center for zoology when he was working in their archives.

He said: ‘The photo is unambiguous, it is clearly a large cat of the Panthera genus, and it’s so clear we can even see its whiskers.

‘The photo was attached to a mysterious handwritten letter, which includes a date without the year, isn’t signed with a full name, and doesn’t have the sender’s address.

‘But it does state the photo was taken and if it’s genuine, then it’s the probably the best photo of a British big cat that exists.’

The documentary also reports on DNA evidence that suggests the presence of at least one wild cat near the spot a sheep was killed in Gloucestershire in July last year.

Tim Whittard, producer of ‘Panthera Britannia Declassified’, said: ‘This astonishing lost photograph and amazing new scientific discovery form only a fraction of the collective evidence on display in the film.

‘The documentary is predominantly data driven. We used real science and real experts, and tried to be as objective and analytical as possible.

‘The research process for this show was intensive and exhaustive, and took us thousands of hours in various archives, libraries, museums, and laboratories, as well as in the field and meeting hundreds of eyewitnesses.

‘The result is a mind-blowing voyage of discovery for viewers, which really takes this forward as serious zoological issue.

‘The story is a sad one really – these majestic big cats could be legally owned without a license in the UK until 1976 and were very popular, being seen as fashionable status symbols at the time.

‘When the laws surrounding exotic animal ownership changed a lot of people released their big cats into the countryside.

‘So essentially, the animals people are seeing today are the offspring of abandoned pets for the most part.’

‘Panthera Britannia Declassified’ is available now to buy and rent on Amazon Prime.

It will also be broadcast later this year as part of a special week of programming on Blaze (Freeview channel 64).

Last month, a husband and wife Andy Rule, 53, andClaire, 50 shared a photo of they believe was a rare big cat in the Cotswolds.

They set up cameras in woodland near Nympsfield, Gloucestershire, in the hope of snapping a beast.

A number of suspected puma sightings have also been reported in the North Wales town of Chirk.

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