Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
by Frances Rand
South Coast Register
July 21, 2010
FOR over a hundred years big cats have stalked Kangaroo Valley.
They scare people, kill stock and leave big paw prints.
However, when it comes to being photographed, they are very shy.
A new book, Australian Big Cats – An Unnatural History of Panthers, looks into the phenomena of panther sightings.
The authors, researcher Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang, have collected stories about big cat sightings for over a decade.
They theorise that the cats could be the descendants of escaped zoo animals or World War II American military mascots. They could also be mutant monstrous moggies or perhaps marsupial lions never died out.
Various scat and fur samples sent off for analysis have come back as felis catus – domestic cat. The authors weren’t impressed and decided to test the experts with some genuine leopard fur. The result – felis catus – proved science could fail.
Other experts have taken panther sightings seriously and various government departments, including the NSW Department of Primary Industries, have compiled reports. They concluded that more evidence needed to be collected.
Former Kangaroo Valley resident Doris Blinman was responsible for reporting panther sightings in the early 1980s.
During the period her yard was visited up to three times a week by one or two huge black cats for a period of a few months.
According to Mrs Blinman, the cats came both at night and in daylight and delighted in eating the fruit from her grapevine as well as eating local wildlife, including a fruit bat.
Ms Lang said there were some interesting aspects to Mrs Blinman’s story, including a “smell of sulphur” associated with the sightings.
Another local, Clarry Hansen, also sighted big cats and paw prints with a 13 to 14cm diameter.
In 1981 the two shared their stories with a Channel 9 news crew.
“It’s a reasonably well-forested area, with plentiful food sources and also being well populated could account for more people seeing panthers,” said Ms Lang.
The last local panther sighting may have been the last forever.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, a local resident reported driving past a “deceased large feline” on the side of Forest Road.
A Sydney man also saw the deceased animal by the side of the road on the same day.
In a hurry he did not stop, but returned the next day where he could find no trace of the feline.
Monday, July 19, 2010
You can now listen to our interview on NZ's The Cryptid Factor in all its glory on the link below. Our part starts @ 10.20...Mike chimes in later in the show talking about other Australian cryptids including the yowie!http://www.95bfm.com/assets/sm/196305/3/log-2010-07-11-1000.mp3
Writer/photographer Michael Williams and journalist Rebecca Lang have travelled all over Australia interviewing farmers, hunters, hikers and ordinary Australians investigating sightings, unexplained stock deaths and looking into the history books to gather information for the book.
Their travels have also brought them to the Ararat and Grampians region in their quest for evidence.
The presence of big cats in the Australian bush is one of the country's biggest mysteries and for many years there has been talk of sightings.
''There has been evidence of big cats in Victoria since the 1870s,'' Mr Williams said.
This evidence is a mixture of rich folklore, sightings and video evidence.
''In putting the book together, we have spent eight years researching and travelling around Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland collecting reports, photos, video, scat and hair samples,'' he said.
''We want to prove the case that it's not just folklore, that these are valid reports.
''We want to prove the that evidence is overwhelming, that there is some mystery animal in Australia.''
The book is available online australianbigcats.com.au or through PO Box 5 Hazelbrooke 2779 NSW. The cost is $35 plus $15 postage.http://www.araratadvertiser.com.au/news/local/news/general/book-on-big-cat-research-released/1889837.aspx
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Big cats on the prowl?By Margaret Harrison • Jul 14th, 2010
A book written about one of Australia’s greatest mysteries — are there big cats roaming around the Australian bush? — has been written by Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang.
Michael dropped into the Advertiser office recently with the newly published book, AUSTRALIAN BIG CATS An Unnatural History of PANTHERS.
The authors say they hope the book will act as a catalyst for serious research into mystery animal sightings with a view to re-discovering out-of-place, rare and extinct species — and laying to rest some urban legends along the way.
Michael has visited the Maryborough area three or four times to carry out research.
“It’s a mystery,” Michael said.
“The more you learn, the more confusing it becomes.”
Sightings of large cat-like animals have been reported from many parts of Australia over the last decades, described as being like pumas, jaguars or leopards in appearance and size.
IF you go down to the woods today, be careful because there are possibly very strange creatures lurking in the Australian bush.
So Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang would have us believe with their book Australian Big Cats: Unnatural History of Panthers launched three weeks ago.
The pair, Michael, a writer and photographer, and Rebecca, a journalist and editor, embarked on an discovery adventure nine years ago, having heard a lecture by Peter Chappell, who had compelling arguments for the notion of wild cats living in the bush of Australia.
The pair travelled, Michael says, from the south of Australia to the Atherton Tableland and beyond up to the Cape to record over 1000 stories of sightings, paw prints, second-hand tales, photographs, and video footage of animals that should, for the most part, never have existed in this land.
The couple stayed as guests of farmers along the way.
The stories they compiled vary from tales of black, panther-type creatures, to big, cat-looking marsupials, to striped creatures, to almost supernatural creatures with extraordinary strengths and abilities.
Michael admits his hotline, posted on his website for people to report their sightings, has been a bit of a kooky line, and it has been difficult to sort the proverbial wheat from the chaff.
Nevertheless, at the end of his travels and having sorted through all the stories, he came to three conclusions.
"The conclusions are there appears to be several species of big cat or one with multiple colours that are undiscovered in Australia," he says.
"They are non-native."
"And there appears to be from five-to 10 per cent of reports of big cats that look like marsupials."
Michael is aware of the scepticism of the general public that there could be such creatures and says most people won't believe it unless there is "a body on the table".
But the book, he says, cites very plausible references and sightings, from police officers, to national park rangers, to hunters, and farmers shocked at losing their livestock to such ferocious beasts.
Police made a statement about a wild lioness in NSW in 1985.
Michael says there were also investigations that were hushed up over the years in the state.
One investigator said there was a breeding population of jaguars; another, in 2001, agreed there were more than likely big cats; and a 2008 report, which Michael says he had to get under freedom of information, concluded there were wild cats, too.
In 2009, he says there was a revised report that said said they didn't exist.
Michael actually saw a big cat on his travels, at a farm in Maryborough, Victoria, where he was taking down the story of a farmer, who saw one such creature jump over his fence, grab a sheep, and jump back.
"What are the chances, but I saw it with a night scope at the crack of dawn drinking at a waterhole," Michael says. "It had a head like a bowling ball and it was about the size of a large German Shepherd.
"Suddenly, there was an explosion of movement from right to left.
"I was gobsmacked because I was seeing a living legend.
"Then it was looking at me but by the time I passed the night scope on it was gone."
In the book, Michael postures a few possible reasons for wild cats in Australia.
They could be the extinct marsupial lion that lived up to 30,000 years ago on the continent.
"They had the best biting mechanism of any animal ever known," Michael says.
The second theory is that the wild cats could be escaped circus or zoo animals.
"There are stories of circuses crashing every 500m," Michael says.
"Everyone has a second-hand story of a town where a circus crashed on a certain corner in the rain and an animal escaped."
The third theory is that they are released mascots from American army troops that were once stationed in Australia.
And the final hypothesis is that they are some kind of mutant domestic cat that has grown to gigantic proportions in the wild.
In Queensland, the dominant big cats sighted have been striped cats.
And in the Far North, large black cats were seen on the Atherton Tablelands and at Sherga near Weipa.
"We had a good report at Sherga from dog handlers, who were RAAF personnel," Michael says.
So now you know.
Don't say you haven't been warned.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The debate over whether big cats, such as panthers or pumas, are roaming the Australian bush has gone on for decades but as far as Michael Williams is concerned, there's no room for argument.
Michael is convinced Australia is home to big cats and, along with partner Rebecca Lang, has written a book to prove it.
The book is called "Australian Big Cats - An Unnatural History of Panthers".
He spoke to Matt Dowling about researching the book and what inspired his fascination for big cats.