Monday 10 December 2007

Odd article from The Local, Croydon

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 (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.

Saturday 1 December 2007

Mystery bird

An unidentified flying bird has been spotted over Battersea.
Early reports suggest it is a buzzard, but a possible sighting of an eagle in neighbouring Kingston has got twitchers excited.
Brian Barnes of Battersea snapped the bird near Battersea Power Station after seeing it circling in the sky.
Mr Barnes said: "It was circling high above while a flock of green parrots passed below.
"Then I saw it flying above Wandsworth town centre."
Earlier this week a man saw a large bird flying in Kingston.
The man said: "He was about two foot high and had a wingspan of about 4ft. I think it was an eagle."
Have you seen the bird near you or can you identify it?

From THIS IS LOCAL LONDON 9th November 2007
(actual photograph on right - buzzard ? eagle ? or something else ?)

Thinking of buying an exotic pet ?

Killer foxes or big cats ?

Camden New Journal - by SIMON WROE
Published: 1 November 2007

Has urban fox turned cat killer? Rogue predator blamed for series of attacks in street which has lost10 pets in two years. Cats of Hampstead beware – there is something lurking in the shadows and it is not after your Whiskas. A series of attacks on cats in a Gospel Oak street has raised fears that a killer fox is on the loose. Cat lovers in Savernake Road believe the rogue fox stalking their gardens may have a taste for feline flesh.Brenda Morlet is “100 per cent sure” that her cat, called Tony Har­rison, lost her back leg in a fox attack in September. She said: “I never thought a fox would do it, but six vets looked at the cat and told me the same thing – they thought it was the work of a fox. “The fox chomps down very quickly. It shredded all the skin. His leg was crushed bone and sinew with a bit of foot hanging off it. His claws were broken.”Mrs Morlet believes the culprit was a large, “predatory” fox, which was seen just two feet from her back door on the morning of the attack. “This one didn’t have the same look as the ­other foxes I’ve seen,” she said. “It was very big and it looked evil... predatory. This fox is going to give other foxes a bad name.” She said that 10 cats have gone missing from the street in the past two years – at one point they were disappearing at a rate of one a month.Neighbour Jan Stevens believes her 10-year-old tortoiseshell cat Albie was killed by a fox a year ago.His half-eaten remains were found in a next-door neighbour’s garden the day after the cat went missing. She said: “People tell you foxes don’t attack but occasionally there is a fox that does. There are no dogs in the houses on either side of us so what else could it have been?”Wildlife consultant John Bryant said fox attacks could not be ruled out. “Nobody loves foxes more than I do, but it does happen,” he said. “It’s no good denying it, but it is rare. You can never say never with wild animals. They’ve all got different personalities, like people. In any species you’re going to get a rogue.”It is believed the fox may come from a den of up to 30 at Hampstead Heath allotments. There are an estimated 10,000 foxes in London. Each will cover up to 160 gardens in a night looking for food.Elise Robertson, at Zasman Vets in South End Green, Hampstead, treated Mrs Morlet’s cat without charge. He said: “As the years go on, we’re seeing more atypical wounds that are being caused by dogs and foxes. The puncture wounds are completely different – they shred tissue. There are more and more foxes in the area, and they’re hungry.”Dr Robertson, whose cat was attacked by what she thinks was a fox, added that “faced with a mouldy curry from a dumpster or a nice fresh cat” the scavengers might think twice.Mr Bryant suggests imposing a cat curfew to prevent further attacks. “Killing the fox is not the answer,” he said. “They’ll be replaced within a few days by other foxes.”But Mrs Morlet believes the killer fox should be shot and the council should foot the bill. She said: “I can’t let my cats out because they’re in his food path. Animals adapt according to their environment. Maybe we’re seeing the start of the real urban fox.”
Other theories point the finger at roaming 'big cats' as several domestic cats over the years throughout the capital, particularly in the semi-rural areas, where pet cats have been found half-eaten in a very clean fashion, flesh stripped and peeled back, all the characteristics of a 'big cat' kill. Also, what mystery predator is behind the half-eaten remains of foxes ?

Like a pig in....!

Rumour had it that in 1851 beneath Hampstead, feral pigs, or hogs were prowling the depths of the sewers! Legend claimed that a pregnant sow somehow ended up trapped in the gloomy tunnels, giving birth to a happy litter of excrement swilling, offal consuming offspring, even more ferocious than their known relatives which may have inhabited some nearby yard.
Sceptics argued that such animals had never been seen or heard to grunt through the drain grates, but believers in such quirky tales claimed, that the reason for this elusive behaviour was simply down to the Fleet ditch, which, once encountered from the mouth of the sewer at the riverside, would have flushed the piggies back to their lair after failed attempts to swim against the rapids.
If only pigs could fly!

Such a mystery echoes the similar, yet more consistent myth of alligators roaming New York's sewer system, particularly from the early 1900's when it was said that unwanted pets were released into the rat-ridden domain, breeding successfully, and creating a local monster scare.

Reading 'panther'.

From the Reading Evening Post (UK): 23 Nov. 2007
Trail of the black panther
A black panther could be on the loose in Caversham Park Village after a large cat with orange eyes was spotted sauntering across a field. Geoff and Sylvia Killgallon, of Littlestead Close, say they watched the unidentified beast for up to 10 minutes as it surveyed the area and lunged at a pheasant. Retired Mr Killgallon, 68, said: "My wife was in the kitchen with her hairdresser and said 'come and look at this'. "My first reaction was 'bloody hell', and I rushed upstairs to get some binoculars. "It was in a field out towards Dunsden Green. It was so big I don't think it could have been a domestic cat. My wife was convinced it was a panther. "It walked up the field swishing its tail before it looked round towards us. "My wife says she observed pointed ears and orange eyes." He added: "I don't think it was hunting anything but it looked through the hedge and a pheasant walked behind it. "It made a lunge at it but the pheasant flew off. "It walked further along, looking around and looking quite relaxed. "It was so big and had a very long tail which curved up. "I don't think it was fully grown but it looked healthy and well nourished." Mr Killgallon said he and his wife have looked out for the formidable feline every morning since the siting at 9.45am on Tuesday last week without success. Black panthers, or melanistic leopards, are thought to be among the most frequently spotted big cats in Britain.
Jo Barr from the RSPCA said big cats do escape from private collections and that a wild lynx had been found roaming the streets of London in 2001. She told the Evening Post: "We do get calls about these occasionally. Obviously, it's a potentially dangerous wild animal so it is often more of a police matter. "One possibility is that it is a very large domestic cat. "However, it is always a possibility a big cat has escaped from a private collection, which has to be licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976." Reading Borough Council confirmed it had not issued any such licences, while South Oxfordshire District Council has issued just one, to a bison owner. Miss Barr added: "We do get reports from time to time but the majority turn out to be unsubstantiated. "This is one of the more unusual sightings as they tend to come from more open and exposed areas like Exmoor and Dartmoor."
The RSPCA advises anyone coming into contact with a big cat to report it to their local authority.