Big cats 'roaming East Anglia'

BIG cats such as leopards, lynxes and pumas are roaming the East Anglian countryside, which is one of the hotspots for sightings it has been claimed.The reports to the British Big Cats Society (BBCS) are on the increase, with 59 sightings in Suffolk and 62 in Essex between January 2003 and March this year.

BIG cats such as leopards, lynxes and pumas are roaming the East Anglian countryside, which is one of the hotspots for sightings it has been claimed.

The reports to the British Big Cats Society (BBCS) are on the increase, with 59 sightings in Suffolk and 62 in Essex between January 2003 and March this year.

During the 15-month survey a total of 2,052 reports were received, averaging four sightings a day across Britain.

And 12% of these were in East Anglia - making it the third most likely place where the exotic felines will be spotted.


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Wickham Market resident David Galvan, a member of the BBCS, said the most recent sighting of a big cat had been in February when a man walking his dog through Rendlesham Forest at dusk saw a large black cat.

Mr Galvan said that, although the law making it illegal to release big cats came into force in 1984, it was likely that those already in Britain's rural areas had reproduced.

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He said: "They are out there. They are difficult to see as generally when they realise that someone's watching them they go."

The BBCS has now called on ministers to back a full UK-wide scientific investigation into sightings of big or exotic cats in rural Britain.

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

It 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.

The society's founder Danny Bamping said: "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."

Mr Bamping said the BBCS, which was set up four years ago, had been "inundated" with information about big cats with a total of 85,000 hits to its website during the survey time.

He said people were less afraid of coming forward to log a sighting and organisations such as the National Farmers Union, several police forces and many wildlife organisations across the country have contributed to the study.

The society is concentrating on gathering more scientific evidence to help prove and protect the big cats roaming Britain.

Sightings can be reported on the society's website, which is www.britishbigcats.org.

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