Tuesday, 17 October 2006
The question of whether or not large puma-like cats prowl undetected in the Grampians region is again under the microscope.
Big cat enthusiast Michael Williams will be visiting the Ararat area in the next fortnight to collect local data about the fabled Grampians Puma.
Mr Williams is currently compiling information for a book about the presence of big cats in Australia.
He is also keen to meet any friends of the late John Davis who shared his recent interest in big cats.
The existence of big cats in the Grampians has been a contentious issue since as early as the 19th century.
Mr Williams said he has evidence from a newspaper report that an organised lion hunt took place in the Grampians during the 1880s. He said he has gathered documentation about numerous sightings from all over Australia dating back more than 120 years.
"The earliest scientific report of a leopard-sized cat was reported in the Northern Territory in 1883, and tabled in 1884 in the South Australian parliament," he said.
"This is listed in a CSIRO journal that lists the historical spread of cats in Australia."
Mr Williams is a firm believer that a breeding population of big cats exists in Australia.
"Our major contention is that escaped exotic big cats have been in Australia a long time," he said.
Mr Williams pointed out the findings of a Deakin University study into the Grampians region supported the claim that an animal resembling a puma is living in the area.
The Deakin Puma study found: "The two paw prints marked by David Hamilton and Wally Smith immediately after their sighting of a big cat-like animal at Rocklands Reservoir and the exact location where the animal had been sighted at the waters edge, were made by a big cat of considerable weight leaning forward.
"The big cat who made these paw prints may well have been of a similar size to that of an adult female puma."
Professor John Henry said in 2001 there was sufficient evidence from a number of intersecting sources to affirm beyond reasonable doubt the presence of a big cat population in western Victoria.
"This population of big cats most probably dates from March 1942 and had, as its original location, the Grampians mountain ranges," Professor Henry said.
Mike Williams is hoping to hear from and meet with people with information about the Grampians big cat population when he visits the area. He can be contacted on 0416 303 371 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.