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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
South West 'is big cat hotspot'
Puma
The British Big Cats Society says cat sightings are increasing
The South West has been named as the UK's big cat hotspot.

Figures show 21% of the 2,052 sightings reported to the British Big Cats Society (BBCS) between January 2003 and March this year were in the region.

The BBCS says its figures show there is "little doubt" that big cats such as leopards, lynx and pumas are roaming the countryside.

Now, campaigners are calling for a government report on the issue - focused on the South West.

BREAKDOWN OF SIGHTINGS
South West 21%
South East 16%
East Anglia 12%
Scotland 11%
West Midlands 9%
East Midlands 9%
North West 7%
North East 7%
Wales 5%
Ireland 3%

The society is calling on ministers to back a full UK-wide scientific investigation into sightings of big or exotic cats in rural Britain.

The 15-month survey by the BBCS, which is based in Devon, recorded an average of four sightings a day in the UK.

The study unearthed video and photographic evidence, plaster casts of paw prints and reports of attacks on horses and sheep.

The study is set to re-ignite debate about the so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor and similar sightings of big cat-like animals across rural Britain.

There were 96 reported observations of big cats in Cornwall during the survey period, 100 in Devon and 69 in Somerset, the BBCS said.

Local farmers have claimed that they lost sheep to a large animal roaming Bodmin Moor and in 1998 video footage was released showing what appeared to be a black animal resembling a wild cat.

But a government report in 1995 found no evidence of a big cat population on the moor.

'Scientific study'

BBCS founder Danny Bamping said: "Over the last 15 months we have been inundated with information about big cats, it's been rather overwhelming at times.

"The evidence has been growing and is increasingly clear.

"We are now going to approach the proper authorities to ask for their support in undertaking a properly-funded scientific study on the big cats in Britain.

"We'd like to focus on the South West because this is the most active area."

The survey recorded 231 reported sightings in Scotland, 141 in Kent, 127 in Yorkshire and 102 in Wales.

But observations were not limited to rural areas, with seven recorded sightings of big cat activity in London during the period.


SEE ALSO:
Farmers asked to spot big cats
12 Jan 04  |  Cornwall
Pony injured by 'big cat'
28 Aug 03  |  Devon
'Big cat' excites experts
12 Aug 03  |  Cornwall


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