The above link shows snippets of footage, the full versions of which have been reserved for a forthcoming documentary.
I have viewed all of this footage taken by Coryn Memory, extracts of which were circulated in the media from 7 February 2012 onwards. I have examined it with various wildlife and mammal practitioners. Based on the scale measurements, all these people agree it is an important development for the following reasons:
It is clearly a cat, and somewhat bigger than a fox. The scaled measurement of around three-and-a-half foot body length and two-and-a-half foot tail means it is beyond the scale of a large feral cat. We do not know for sure, but scientifically, a leopard in its black form is one option for such a cat. That scale can equate to something like a female leopard, especially if the diet is mainly small prey like rabbits, mice, pigeons, pheasants and smaller deer.
The footage shows the behaviour of this cat at dusk in a freshly cut pasture. It appears to be taking the easy option of checking for mice and voles which are exposed after grass cutting. Large predators need to conserve energy in all that they do.
It is the form and the movement of the cat which wildlife practitioners have remarked on. Perhaps we should not expect a cat living here such as a black leopard to look and behave exactly as it does in its official home in Asia. Coryn’s footage shows a cat living in our conditions of grassland, scrub and small woodlands. We might be mistaken if we simply expect such an animal to look like its counterpart in its native lands. It is no use nit-picking footage of a cat because it doesn’t conform to our expectations – maybe we should change our expectations and consider what naturalising big cats may look like and behave like?
This cat seems to have a gracile form, more like we expect to see in a cheetah, but nobody thinks we have feral cheetahs in Britain, as they would reveal themselves chasing prey on open land. By contrast, black leopards and sandy-grey pumas, which are the main candidates for big cats here, need to keep stealthy as they mainly stalk and ambush prey, yet this cat seems unlike the classic form and poise of such cats.
Although the footage begs many questions, and it is far from clear what type of cat this is, it might suggest that big cats here may not always resemble what we see and expect from the text books.