Daily Star - May 16, 2009By Rick Lyons
BIG cats are on the prowl in Britain – and today we reveal West Wales is their favourite hunting ground.
Shocking figures leaked to us show sleepy Aberystwyth has seen more attacks by the beasts than anywhere else.
Black panthers, pumas and lynx are all thought to be roaming free – and breeding – in remote rural locations.
And 34 of 39 suspected big cat kills probed by the Government in the last ten years were in the Aberystwyth area.
Just last month the Veterinary Laboratories Agency – responsible for post-mortems on big cat kills – said a calf attacked there in March had its ribs splintered by a large mammal.
Since 1998 the agency has also studied the carcasses of 15 lambs, 19 sheep, a dog and a fox – all thought to have fallen prey to foreign big cats.
Most sightings in Wales are attributed to panthers, which are capable of killing animals as big as a horse.
Experts think they were released in the 1970s and have now formed breeding populations in sparsely populated areas like rural Wales.
Dr Dan Forman, a carnivore biologist from Swansea University, said he had “relatively conclusive”
evidence big cats were out there.
And he said they were being helped by the climate and rugged terrain round Aberystwyth.
Dan told us: “It’s milder – you don’t get hard frost.
“There’s also a lot of food around here and a lot of caves which are in remote locations near abandoned copper mines, gold mines and things like that. They are fantastic refuges for these animals.
“There are feral populations of racoons in the United Kingdom, there are feral populations of
wallabies. People don’t believe it but it’s true.
“There’s no reason why other predators couldn’t exist in an environment where there’s lots of food, lots of cover and where people don’t normally go – like West Wales.”
The introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Wild Animals Act is being blamed for the rise of the big cats.
It required the owners of exotic cats to have licences – prompting many to dump their pets.
It is now thought they are all over the United Kingdom and may even have inter-bred, creating new species.
Numbers are unknown but there are an average of between three and four sightings every day.
The National Farmers Union of Wales admits big cats are “a serious issue” for its members, and Danny Bamping, of the British Big Cat Society, said: “People need to realise that these cats are out there.
“They’re real and they are not in the same category as the Loch Ness Monster.”
While Swansea Uni’s Dan Forman added: “Three hundred years from now we might have pumas walking around the countryside and people simply accepting it.
“These animals integrate themselves into our animal assemblage and they become part of it.”
So the cats are living in abandoned mines no wonder there are so many in Wales.