This intersting comedy sketch of an article was posted on the CFZ Forum, and appeared in The Local... although I NEVER claim to have seen a black leopard in Croydon!
The Local: Dangerous Carnivores (December 2007)
If you happen to be in Kent in the next couple of weeks, try stay alert. They’ve just spotted a leopard there. I didn’t realise that you got dangerous carnivores (outside of a chav-filled kebab shop) in Britain, but I’m reliably informed the story is true. A man called Neil Arnold who works for Kent Big Cat Research reckons he spotted a black leopard near Croydon Airport. I wouldn’t go walking through the fields muttering, “here, pussy, pussy, puss puss,” just yet though; despite the colour of its fur, a black leopard’s almost the same thing as the rosette-speckled beauties that hang around the Kruger Park.
Arnold’s blog reckons that a black leopard is “pound for pound probably the most evolved predator cat on earth. Some say, the most aggressive and feared animal in the world. They are extremely secretive and solitary animals, only coming together to mate. They are believed to be capable of killing prey up to 550 kilos.” Secretive and solitary but highly aggressive? So, completely unpredictable and therefore even more likely to make you dinner. So in other words, a close cousin of a member of the big five - the most awesome, terrifying and astoundingly, brutally, beautiful wild animals on the face of the earth - is currently wandering around near Croydon. And you thought Kate Moss was the area’s scariest citizen. Now if there is one thing Africans have always had the upper hand over Britons on, it’s wildlife. Not nature reserves – because the English countryside is brilliant on its own – but wildlife. I don’t care what you say; foxes and squirrels thieving rubbish, hanging around blackened suburban streets might excite people in – well, Croydon – but as far as I’m concerned, you can keep them.
Give me stalking a herd of elephants at dawn, a hippo gently rollicking on the surface of the waterhole or a lioness turning the veld into South Central. I’d bet good money that most of the South Africans here have spent at least a day or two in a game reserve, and that a good chunk of them will have seen a member of the big five, so you can probably appreciate that that kind of experience sticks with you. No matter how hard they try, no rural or urban environment in the United Kingdom is going to be able to compare to that. I won’t say ever because Arnold goes on to note that the appearance of big cats in this country are not uncommon. “The winter is generally a time when vegetation thins out, and these cats will search wider areas for food, coming into towns.” According to his website beastsoflondon.blogspot.com (and very good it is, too) lynxes, caracals and servals have been spotted here as well. Despite their presence, there is a worrying coda: a black leopard was apparently shot in the 1970s by some blunderbuss-wielding buffoon who thought it would look good as a carpet. Now that’s just not cricket. We’re probably not at the stage where they’ll rename Huddersfield as isiTony Blair National Park, but next time I head south, I’ll be carrying a big stick.