Monday, February 28, 2005

Hunt on for the Black Panther
February 27, 2005
The Sun-Herald

Natalie Schmitt delves into her backpack and suddenly dry retches. It's not yesterday's sandwiches that trigger the zoologist's reaction, it's the kilo of leopard excrement she has nestled in her hands. "I'm glad you can smell how strong and pungent the odour really is," she says with a scowl. Leopards, indeed, should be ashamed of themselves. But on this occasion, faeces from no other animal will do. Acquired from a private zoo, the leopard scats are about to be used as bait - big cat bait.

Schmitt, a documentary presenter, is in the Blue Mountains with a crew from Perth-based Storyteller Productions to attempt to film or trap the mysterious black cat that for decades has plagued Sydney's west and north-west communities including Richmond, Grose Vale, the Hawkesbury and Lithgow. The crew has been commissioned by the Discovery Channel to produce a one-hour documentary about the possible existence of panthers (black leopards) in NSW. And they are setting down the last of eight infra-red motion sensor camera traps that have been strategically scattered throughout the Blue Mountains National Park.

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