The number of people reporting seeing big cats is rising in the UK, and there are new studies that are seeking to prove the big animals exist.
The BBC recently reported over 1,000 sightings of large cats in the UK being lodged in a 12-month period between 2004 and 2005.
The authorities do appear to take at least some of these reports seriously, but there have been cases of mistaken identity one with so-called lion turning out to be a Maine Coon cat.
However, one new research project is underway, conducted by Dr. Andrew Hemmings, a scientist at the Royal Agricultural University. So far, the study has analysed 20 potential big cat kills, with three cases apparently showing evidence of the involvement of big cats.
The most popular theory of where these big animals come from appears to be that the cats people see today are the descendants of animals released by owners after ownership of them was banned by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the 1976.
Prior to the Act it had been fashionable in some wealthy circles to keep exotic animals in small “zoos” at their homes. The practice dated back to the 19th Century.
Whatever the truth, there is evidence that some big cats were released. For example, in 1980 a puma was captured in Scotland. Its stuffed carcass is now displayed in the Inverness Museum.
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