In my on-going interest in non indigenous charismatic mega-fauna in rural settings this story provides some further fascinating insight it tells us:

For decades, reports of big cats have surfaced all over Britain – from Crystal Palace to Cornwall to Carlisle. There have been 155 big cat sightings reported to UK police forces in the past three years, according to forces responding to FOI requests. There are likely many more never recorded. Local newspapers publish dozens of eyewitness reports every year, and have helped to firmly establish certain creatures – the Surrey Puma, the Beast of Exmoor – in local legend.

Where might these cats have come from? One theory suggests they were released by their owners in the months leading up to the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act. Exotic animals had been sold in Harrods; cheetahs could occasionally be seen being walked in Hyde Park. Given the choice of acquiring a costly licence or relinquishing their pets to animal sanctuaries, at least some owners chose a third option: sending cats out into the wild. In 2000, Leslie Maiden, a lion tamer known as One-Eyed Nick, told the Birmingham Post he’d released a panther and a puma in Derbyshire some 25 years before. 

“At first I was a bit worried about how they would get on,” he said. “But I went up to the moors a few weeks later and saw bones of sheep and pheasants, so I think they adapted pretty well.”

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