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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
CCTV in woods to find big cats
Panther
One theory is that two panthers were released into the countryside
The question of whether big cats are stalking the forests of Wales may finally be answered.

The British Big Cat society (BBCS) plans to photograph two wooded areas considered sighting hotspots.

Motion-triggered cameras will be set up near Carmarthen and on the Welsh borders in Monmouthshire.

BBCS is keeping the exact locations secret, claiming there have been reports of the animals being targeted by "trophy hunters."

"I know of some individuals who are trying to shoot and trophy bag one of these big cats," said the society's spokesman Danny Bamping.

We have reports of two black leopards being released into the wild by a private owner in a very rural part of Wales in the 1990's
BBCS Danny Bamping

"That's why we don't make all our new evidence and details of cat locations public knowledge.

"There have been quite a few sightings this year, up almost 10% on last year, to 123."

Mr Bamping said there had been a lot of activity in several locations across Wales, including the Brecon Beacons, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and the Wye Valley, with walkers reporting sightings, and finding footprints.

But the number of sightings do not necessarily indicate there are over 100 big cats on the loose in Wales - some of them end up end as red-herrings.

"We had one report of a sighting of a large cat in Cwmbran, a picture was taken on a digital camera and published in two national newspapers," added Mr Bamping.

'Black leopards'

"But on close examination it turned out to be a large cuddly toy.

"They can travel vast distances in a short period of time, between 20 and 30 kilometres a day. So a cat that is spotted in Carmarthenshire one day, could be seen in Pembrokeshire the next.

So exactly what sort of big cats are thought to be prowling Wales?

"We've definitely got lynx and we've definitely got puma," Mr Bamping said, who had studied photographic evidence and made numerous visits to locations where big cats have been reported.

"But 70% of the sightings are of black cats. And contrary to popular belief pumas are not black.

"We have reports of two black leopards being released into the wild by a private owner in a very rural part of Wales in the 1990's.

"We heard the story from five individuals and when I started to do some confirmatory research I was threatened off."

BBCS hopes to start the study later this year and in the future plans to film live footage from certain locations and stream the footage live on the internet.


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