Monday, May 30, 2005

Claws out as mayor heats up big cat Saga
By Eamon Duff
May 22, 2005
The Sun-Herald

A mayor has warned the NSW Government a tragedy could occur if it continues to ignore warnings about a colony of big cats creeping closer to the urban fringe.

Hawkesbury City Council mayor Bart Bassett sent a stinging letter to NSW Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald last week outlining community anger over his reluctance to take their
fears seriously.

With the mysterious black creature having resurfaced recently, the letter also resurrects plans
to trap the predator using a caged female panther, on heat, as bait.

The letter reads: "The large number of rational and reliable members of our community (140+) who have seen this animal(s) are justifiably offended that the NSW Government will not give credence to their observations.

"In 1999 it was suggested (by experts) that an oestreogenous large female cat (leopard or
jaguar), in a cage, accompanied by a carer be brought into the area to attract any large cats
within the locality. An experienced marksman situated close by would be able to deal with any
attracted large cats. This offer is still available and your approval to proceed with such a
plan would be appreciated."

Some residents believe a big cat has, for decades, stalked communities including Richmond, Grose Vale, Kurrajong, the Hawkesbury and Lithgow. Witnesses are adamant the creature is a panther.

"This has become a major issue for local residents, particularly those with children," Mr
Bassett said.

"Sightings are flowing in more frequently. Whether the breeding population has grown or the
drought is forcing them outwards, we don't yet know. But as a council, we had to ask, do we
support all these countless credible eye witnesses? Or, do we follow the rule and ignore the
situation until a tragedy has arisen?"

The State Government's stance is that action only be taken when scientific evidence has
surfaced. Mayor Bassett said the final straw for council came when a "reliability test"
discredited two laboratories which the Government had recommended be used for testing of
potential evidence.

After years of negative results, residents submitted genuine panther faeces provided by Bullens'
Animal World at Warragamba. The panther had only ever been fed "beef and horse".

Yet both results stated the scats originated from a dog, one with a diet of "swamp wallaby", the
other "fox, grass and dog grooming hairs."