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Sun-Herald

Wanted alive: Big black cat that was caught on camera

Author: By EAMONN DUFF
Date: 13/05/2001
Words: 594
          Publication: Sun Herald
Section: News
Page: 19
WILDLIFE authorities will travel to the Blue Mountains this week in the hope of learning more about the mystery big black cat caught on video camera.

But there will be no shoot-to-kill policy because of concerns about killing a creature that was considered long extinct.

NSW Agriculture technical director of exotic animals Bill Atkinson said: ``This is not the time to be going out there with guns blazing. This is a completely new thing for us and so the first priority must be to identify exactly what it is and where it originated from.

``Only when we have identified it can we then sit down and decide the most appropriate course of action. You cannot dismiss the possibility this could in fact be something that was deemed to be extinct."

Panther speculation resurfaced a fortnight ago when details of a massive Blue Mountains-based cat became public through a Freedom of Information document request by big cat researcher Michael Moss.

The NSW Government released a series of documents that acknowledged ``something is out there". The secret files also revealed that in 1999 wildlife officials sent an expert to track down the creature after fears it could refocus its attention from livestock to humans including tourists. A letter from the Minister of Agriculture's Office read: ``I would like your assistance in providing a suitably skilled person to enable this animal to be tracked, located and identified.

``To not to do so could bring into question Government's duty of care if these alleged attacks happened to result in injury to a person."

Mr Atkinson yesterday played down that threat but suggested there had been a change of thinking about just how many of the giant cats might be roaming Sydney's fringes.

``Yes, there may be more than just the one," he said. ``Because this creature has finally been caught on film, we must now take seriously all the eyewitness accounts that have been flooding in over the past 40 years. These types of cats don't generally live for 40 years so you must draw your own conclusions."

One Grose Vale resident, who has spent the past five years compiling a thorough database on the black cat, said she was ecstatic that film footage from Lithgow had finally proved to the Government that ``local residents are not bonkers".

``National Parks can bloody well return and finish the half-hearted job they started a few years back," she said.

``This may be a great conversation piece in the city end of Sydney, but us locals are the ones who have had to put up with the livestock carnage, the marauding and the day-to-day threat."

A Lithgow resident filmed a ``black panther" last Wednesday.

Mr Atkinson admitted that finding the creature would be difficult.

He said: ``Planes go down in that region and are not recovered for days. People get lost and want to be found but they're not traced for days, either.

``So imagine trying to track one of these creatures when it simply does not want to be tracked.

``That's the task we face."

IT'S OUT THERE SOMEWHERE

The massive black cat filmed in a Lithgow backyard last week is not the only creature still out there, believes Australasian Cryptozoology Research and Investigation Centre director Rex Gilroy. ``There remains an animal in that region which is a living remnant of the ice age marsupial cat fauna, possibly an offshoot of the marsupial lion," he said. The thylacoleo carnifex was Australia's largest marsupial carnivore.

 
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