Author Topic: ABC NZ  (Read 2608 times)

Devious Viper
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« on: August 11, 2006, 11:42:17 AM »
Mystery 'panther-like' animal spotted in Canterbury
11 August 2006

A Biosecurity New Zealand investigator and a worker from the Orana Wildlife Park have unsuccessfully searched the Ashburton River mouth, after new sighting of a large feral cat.

It was the sixth reported sighting of a large black panther-like animal in Mid Canterbury since 2001, and the second time that biosecurity officials have conducted a search.

The latest sighting reported was last week at Hakatere Beach, near Ashburton, where a couple and their grandson described the animal as much larger than a domestic cat. A similar sighting was reportedly made in the same area in 1992.

Biosecurity New Zealand senior adviser, Sonia Bissmire, said it seemed credible enough to warrant an official search by incursion investigator Caleb King.

He was accompanied by Orana Park head gamekeeper Graeme Petrie.

"The key thing with creatures of this size is that their major needs are food and a place to live," Mr King told the Ashburton Guardian. The beach had limited cover.

Black cat sightings had occurred over a number of years and each was plotted on a spreadsheet by MAF, which indicated some were of an animal it was difficult to identify.

The latest sighting of the district's "feral beast" was on Friday and was described by Brent and Jill Thomas as being larger than a labrador dog, at a distance of less than 30m.

"It was a decent size, no question about that," Mr Thomas told the Guardian. "I've seen wild cats before and if that's what it was, it was the grand-daddy of all cats."

"It was absolutely jet black, not another marking on it," said Mr Thomas, who is in no doubt that the animal was something other than a large feral cat.

"There's no way in the world it was a grown-up domestic cat," he said. "It had a long tail, a tail that was about half its body length."

A large black cat-like animal, similar to the one seen by Mr and Mrs Thomas, has been spotted on several occasions in the Mid Canterbury foothills, but it has also been seen much further south, in the Lindis Pass area.

One sighting recorded in Mid Canterbury was in the foothills behind Alford Forest in 2001.

Since then, sightings have been reported near Mayfield and near the PPCS meatworks in 2003, near Blowing Point Bridge in early 2004, with another sighting on the Mt Somers walkway in June last year.

Mr Petrie said it would be possible for a large feline to live in a riverbed of one of Canterbury's braided rivers, using the riverbed as a pathway.

Devious Viper
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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2006, 02:22:14 AM »
Paw print discovery revives mystery cat interest
16 August 2006

A farmer at Wakanui, near Ashburton says a large black animal spotted on his farm last week may have been the "panther" reportedly seen around the region in recent years.

"I wasn't sure if it was a cat or a dog, but when it moved, it certainly didn't move like a dog," the farmer who was not named told the Ashburton Guardian. "It slunk away across the road on its belly and disappeared into the trees".

The farmer said that on Saturday, four days after the sighting, he went back and found paw prints in the mud: large, with deep claw marks at the end of each toe. The prints appear to have been made by an animal with retractable claws, like a cat, the farmer said.

But MAF biosecurity incursion investigator, Caleb King who last week unsuccessfully scoured the area of the Ashburton River mouth after another reported sighting, said his first reaction was that the print could have been made by a dog, because of the claw marks.

Cats generally only unsheathed their claws when hunting, not when walking, he said.

But he expected a staff member from the Orana Wildlife Park would visit the site to have a look.

"What is so interesting is the descriptions we are getting from people are relatively similar, but they're not describing an animal that is as large as a leopard or a jaguar," he said.

Devious Viper
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2006, 03:16:53 AM »
Saturday August 19, 2006
By Jarrod Booker
The legend of the elusive panther-like creature roaming rural Canterbury is growing as animal experts join the search, but not even they have been able to solve the mystery.
For at least five years, the unusually proportioned animal or animals have been seen around the sparsely populated mid-Canterbury area, from the foothills to the sea.
Described as a large black cat, much bigger than a domestic cat, with a long tail, it is often seen slinking around on its belly and has an aversion to people.
Recent sightings prompted experts from Biosecurity New Zealand and Christchurch's Orana Wildlife Park to investigate in the area last week, but they didn't find it.
Biosecurity NZ believes it may be a particularly large feral cat, but Orana Park staff say it is possible the animal is a panther or big cat brought into the country before regulations were tightened.
Pawprints found in the area of one of the sightings were analysed by Orana Park staff this week and found to be that of a dog.
"It would be nice to get to the bottom of this. But I guess there is every possibility that we won't," says Biosecurity NZ senior adviser Sonya Bissmire.
Rangiora man Brent Thomas is one of those whose recent sightings prompted experts to travel to the area to investigate.
Mr Thomas was with his wife, Jill, and grandson Kahn, admiring the views from a lookout point near the mouth of the Ashburton River recently when he saw the animal in flattened-out grass on the edge of the river flats.
"It was not just a big black cat. I've seen wildcats before and it was something much more than that. It looked up at us and basically bolted. It was a very fleeting glimpse at best."
He likened it to the size of his golden labrador dog.
"I'm reluctant to use the word panther, because it sounds like you know what you are talking about. But I have never seen anything like it."
The local newspaper, the Ashburton Guardian, says the area has claimed the creature as its own.
"People who ring us with sightings are normal and sane people. They are not people given to flights of fantasy," says Guardian chief reporter Sue Newman.
Her son spotted the creature last year in a local walkway.
"He's done a lot of tramping and hiking and he's never seen anything like it before."
Orana Park animal manager Ian Adams says there are lot of theories about the animal.
It could be a zoo animal brought into the country that had escaped, or one or more large feral cats. A panther could survive in the harsh Canterbury winter by feeding on rabbits and birds.
"Anything is possible. I don't think we will ever get to the bottom of it until we have a body."
Ms Newman says interest in the creature has waxed and waned depending on the frequency of sightings, but the input of experts had added credibility and got people talking again.
People wanted to know what it was, but Ms Newman believes people would take exception to people going hunting for it.
"If someone came came across its carcass ... that would be different."

source: New Zealand Herald