In recent years, more and more Australians have been seeing big black cats prowling around the countryside. Many amateur videos of these creatures have been posted on the Internet. Thing is, big cats are not native to Australia.
The cats are usually identified as black panthers–that is, leopards born black. That’s what a black panther is. Theories abound. They escaped from zoos or circuses. Men released them from U.S. warships during WWII. People are getting scared: supposedly the cats have killed cattle, horses, sheep, and other large prey. So far the Australian state and federal governments have declined to take any action.
There are a few problems with the leopard theory. 1) Leopards habitually stash their prey in trees instead of trying to eat it all at once. These Australian cats never haul their kill into a tree. 2) Black leopards are rare, but all the Australian cats seen so far are black. How come no one has seen any ordinary leopards? 3) Leopards in Africa and Asia get used to living near human habitation and often attack people. The Australian cats haven’t attacked anyone… yet. 4) A few of the witnesses, including some who managed to film a cat, have said they thought there was something not quite right about it. I have seen some of those videos online, and I concur: especially from a distance, there seems to be something funny about these cats, especially the head. 5) Very oddly indeed, no one has yet shot or trapped one of these cats. That would certainly settle the controversy, if we had an actual specimen to examine. People are always bagging leopards, but not one of these mystery cats has yet been killed or captured.
I wonder, just wonder, if they’re not leopards at all–or not even cats.
Could Thylacoleo be making a comeback? Thylacoleo, the “marsupial lion,” a nasty-looking, cat-like predator, supposedly went extinct during prehistoric times.
But did it? Did it really? I can’t help wondering.