Thursday 11 November 2010

Mystery Animals Of...London - Coming Soon

MYSTERY ANIMALS OF...LONDON, a book by Neil Arnold, and published by CFZ PRESS will be published soon. This unique volume (part of the MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES series) will be the first book of its kind to look at stories pertaining to escaped animals, monsters, out of place creatures, folkloric beasts etc, involving the capital. The county of Surrey is also included in the book with numerous tales of the Surrey 'puma' and other localised 'big cats' as well as stories on mystery birds, reptiles, and mammals. Watch this space...

Sunday 11 April 2010

If 'big cats' are myths....

After the statement from organisation NATURAL ENGLAND that all big cats are "a myth", it's interesting to note that in March 2010, Kent Big Cat Research received twenty-seven reports of large, exotic cats throughout the county. This suggests of course that either every witness is hallucinating, or NATURAL ENGLAND are completely wrong.

In March 2010 there were sightings from Blue Bell Hill, Lordswood, Densole, Lenham, Canterbury, and Ashford. These mainly concerned reports of black leopard, the most recent coming from a Jules C, who on March 25th at 8:00 am, whilst on a train from Ebbsfleet to Canterbury, stated that, "..on the other side of the tunnel between Boxley and Blue Bell Hill, near train track I saw a big, black cat from a short distance. It resembled a black leopard."

In early March a black leopard was observed by a male motorist, a Mr Wright and his girlfriend. At 6:00 am they travelled down North Dane Way in Lordswood in the Medway Towns and saw a big black cat bound towards the undergrowth. Mr Wright was convinced it was a black leopard as he'd seen a similar one in 2000 in Hempstead.

On march 12th a woman named Anne observed a black leopard in a field at Lenham, near Maidstone. It was 2:15 pm as she travelled on the M20 London bound and saw the cat which she described as being, "very long in the body".
On March 10th a lady named Eve saw a black leopard whilst travelling on a train between Canterbury and Selling.

Cats such as the leopard use railway lines not only for navigation but of a night they provide perfect food and there is a lot of shelter in these areas.
During the same month there were two sightings of a black leopard made by a Jason Roberts from Reinden Woods in Densole.

In 2010 Kent Big Cat Research has already received seventy-three reports of large cats. On 2nd January a member of an angling society from Marden was walking along a field at 4:15 pm when a big, black cat bounded across the field fifty yards away. The cat was around five-feet in length.The witness was quite shocked by the appearnce of the animal as he never previously believed such animals existed.

Five days later a Mr Head reported to police a big black cat which he observed whilst sitting on a train at Swanley station at 9:00 am. The witness noticed a creature on the embankment opposite the Kent bound platform. As people began to move along the platform the cat crouched low. It had piercing green eyes.

The following day on the 8th a black leopard was seen at Pheonix Place in Dartford and on the 15th January a Mr Jackson observed a massive black cat at Shottenden. The sighting took place at 2:15 pm as the animal walked into a field around fifteen yards away. On 31st January a black leopard was observed by a couple in Meopham who were sceptical to such sightings. It was 2:00 pm when they spotted a big black cat on a woodland path which sauntered off into the woods.

In February 2010 there were numerous sightings around Canterbury and Ashford. A black leopard ran out in front of a vehicle near Wye on the 20th at 6:00pm, there were also several sightings from Sevenoaks of a black leopard. In April there were sightings of lynx from Sussex and Romney Marsh, puma from Canterbury and Dover, and black leopard at Hawkinge, Gravesend, and near Bromley and Bexley.

Maybe NATURAL ENGLAND, if they admit to such animals roaming the wilds, would have to re-name themselves UNNATURAL ENGLAND! Sightings date back across Surrey, Kent, and Sussex to the 1500s. A majority of animals sighted in the countryside are not connected to zoo escapee's as the organisation stated. Hundreds of puma and leopards, mainly cubs, were released in the 1960s and '70s and what we are now seeing are their offspring. Also, previous centuries prove that animals escaped and were released from menageries. In 2007 Neil Arnold wrote a 400 page book, MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT, a result of his twenty years of research into such animals. Proof that such animals are reported quite regularly across the south-east.

How many strange, and rash statement's will these organisations issue over the next few years ? If some organisations refuse to believe in such animals, it may be wiser to not issue any statements whatsoever. With their type od scepticism is it any wonder that NATURAL ENGLAND and similar groups only receive a handful of reports each year. The vicious circle of repetition continues...

Friday 2 April 2010

Surrey Puma coverage February 2010

From BBC Surrey:

Rumours of giant felines roaming wild in Surrey can be traced back to William Cobbett's day.
Sightings in the 1960s sparked an ongoing debate of whether the Surrey Puma really exists or not.
But after almost two centuries of reported sightings, it's fair to say some of the county's residents believe it is out there, somewhere.
So will the mystery of the big feral cats hiding out in Surrey's hills ever be solved?
In 27 October 1825, Farnham's most famous resident, the farmer, writer and political commentator, William Cobbett reported seeing "a big grey cat, the size of a medium-sized spaniel" whilst on a rural ride, at the ruins of Waverley Abbey.
Little did he know, that his sighting would start a rumour mill which is still grinding on 200 years later.
It was in the 1960s that the county's big cat tales really grabbed the media's attention and public imagination.
Surrey residents reported seeing animals ranging from large black creatures, to lions and cat-like beasts.
The nation's press really got their teeth into the tale, nicknaming the unknown animals the "Crondall Cougar" and the "Munstead Monster" and most famously, the "Surrey Puma."
Gradually, public opinion came round to the thinking, that what everyone was seeing, was indeed a puma. Or pumas.
The explanations for the sightings, came in just as fast.
Theories included big cats escaping from private collections or travelling circuses, native animals such as dogs, foxes or mink being wrongly identified, and even that the big cats may actually be figments of the imagination, or hallucinations!
When the number of sightings started to die down in the 1970s, a local paper received a letter which said "Sir, I am feeling horribly neglected. Couldn't someone see me again soon? Yours, etc. The Surrey Puma"!
But were the animals that people reported seeing, actually pumas? Or any other sort of big cat? It seems no-one can agree.
"Alien Big Cat" is the official term for a non-native, large cat, and refers to pumas and also to panthers, leopards, lynx, and any other big furry cat-like critter that is living wild.
It's possible when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed in 1976, which made it illegal to own exotic but dangerous animals, a handful of owners released their pets into the wild. However, this wouldn't explain the earlier sightings.
Some zoologists and naturalists have said there may be as many as 100 big cats at large in the UK and they back up this claim with reference to sightings, photos, paw casts, farm animal carcasses, and video footage.
But there have been no clear photos taken or any convincing video.
Experts have attributed supposed puma kills to dogs, not big cats. And most prints found have shown claw marks, which is a dog paw trait.
The paw print investigated by Surrey Police, on 7 September 1966 in Munstead , was identified by London Zoo officials as the print of a puma.
However the average puma paw is 3/4 inch (19 mm) smaller than the cast, which would mean the animal that made it would have been much bigger than any eyewitness has said.
Strangely, for all the species of cat said to be roaming the Surrey hills, no-one has ever reported seeing a tiger or a full-size lion.
Sceptics point out that if big cats have been surviving, and breeding, in the wild for all this time, they only have a natural life span of some 20 years.
Therefore, if they are really out there, someone, somewhere, should have come across a big cat corpse by now.
When a 14 year old boy found a big cat skull in a river in Bodmin Moor, it seemed certain to be proof the "Beast" was real. However, the experts at the Natural History Museum proved different . If it had existed at all, it would have been as a rug.
A study was carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) between 12 January and the 1 July 1995.
They said "It was accepted at the start of this investigation that it would never be possible to prove that such an animal, or animals, did not exist, but it was believed that if they did, hard evidence would be forthcoming.
No verifiable evidence for the presence of a "big cat" was found."
"There were only four suspected livestock kills reported in nearly six months, none of which gave any indication of the involvement of anything other than native animals and dogs."
So if the Bodmin Beast doesn't exist, then why should the Surrey Puma?
At the time of the Guildford Spectrum Leisure Centre sighting , an RSPCA spokesman was quoted as saying "We are pretty sure there are large cats out there. It is pure speculation. Nobody has been able to catch one of these animals or provide clear photographic evidence."
DEFRA now say there have been escapes of such beasts from zoos or illegal ownerships, but it does not believe there is a breeding population. "There is always an issue of something escaping from somewhere" said a spokeswoman.
So both organisations are not ruling out the possibility that we do have our very own oversized pussycat stalking the local fauna.
But until there is actual proof in the form of a live cat or a convincing corpse, the existence of the Surrey Puma, will continue to be a source of worldwide debate.

Friday 19 February 2010

Folklore Accounts Part Three: Strange Cries

Reports in the modern era seem relatively numerous, regarding large cats – as of the last fifty or so years - due to press interest and influence, and the constant connections made between felids and owners who released such cats in the ‘60s and ‘70s. During the 1930s an Irene Roberts wrote to a magazine known as The Field commenting on the peculiar screams she’d heard behind her home at Lightwater, Surrey. Such noises were described as being of, ‘…peculiar intensity, expressing, it seemed, mortal fear and physical pain.’
Irene Roberts had become accustomed to hearing the noises of foxes and other indigenous species, but felt that this eerie cry was from an animal far larger and more exotic.

Folklore Accounts Part Two: Felid or Canid ?

On May 3rd 1833 The Times reported on another peculiar animal prowling Surrey. Was it a big cat, a wolf or something altogether more sinister ?

The article read: ‘Some excitement has been raised in the little quiet village of Coulsdon, in Surrey, in consequence of an animal of strange and unnatural appearance having taken up its abode in the neighbouring woods. It has been seen by a great many persons, but the several descriptions are much at variance with each other. All declare that it is something of the dog or wolf species, but all agree that they never saw the like before. It is thought by the more rational part, who are willing to assign a natural cause for the visit of this animal, that it has escaped from some menagerie; but the superstitious are inclined to the belief that it is a supernatural being, come to terrify the wicked for their sins. It, however, appears to be subject to the natural wants that flesh is heir to, as two sheep have already been destroyed and partly devoured by this ferocious visitant. A party, consisting of the gentry of the neighbourhood, with some hounds fron the Surrey pack, went in pursuit of the animal on Tuesday morning, but they met with no success.’

Folklore Accounts Part One: Cobbett's 'puma'

Although much of what we know about the Surrey puma legend originates from around the 1950s, and moreso the 1960s, previous to such sightings there are a handful of legends which could suggest that such an animal had been roaming the Surrey wilds, long before anyone realised. What is clear is that the Surrey puma legend born in the swingin' '60s is the product of a released or escaped 'pet', and nothing more.

One of the most quoted references pertaining to sightings of unusual cats in the British Isles comes from naturalist William Cobbett and his 'Rural Rides' book. Whilst visiting Waverley Abbey in Surrey sometime between 1766 and 1770 Cobbett recorded he’d seen an unusual cat which he would tell his son Richard about on another ramble, stating, ‘Farnham, Surrey – Thursday 27th October (1825) – We came hither by way of Waverley Abbey and Moore Park. On the commons, I showed Richard some of my old hunting scenes, when I was his age, or younger reminding him that I was obliged to hunt on foot. I showed him an old elm tree which was hollow even then, into which I, when a very little boy, saw a cat go, that was as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog, for relating which I got a scolding, for standing to which I at last got a beating; but stand to which I still did, and I would take my oath of it to this day. When in New Brunswick I saw the great wild grey cat, which is there called a Lucifer; and it seemed to me to be just such a cat I had seen at Waverley.’

An intriguing tale. Many researchers have commented that what Cobbett saw was indeed a wild cat (Felis silvestris), now confined to the Scottish Highlands, although some suppose he saw a lynx, jungle cat or a small puma, which can also sport a silvery-grey coat

Sunday 14 February 2010

Big cat sightings around the capital ? Read the book.

For more than twenty years Neil Arnold has investigated sightings of 'big cats' across the south-east. He is a full-time researcher, author and speaker on the subject.
His latest book, MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: KENT features a vast chapter on CATS AROUND THE CAPITAL. He has just finished MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: LONDON which covers sightings of the legendary Surrey puma, dating back to the 1700s. It is the only book to comprehensively look into the legend.
There is no mystery as to why such animals roam the UK countryside, but sensational press headlines,inadequate research, and folklore have fogged the legend. Now read the truth behind the tales...