I talk about this in the very first episode of the Think Tank segment of the Skeptic Zone (up on iTunes on September 26). Because of time constraints and Richard’s heavy handed editing (kidding) I didn’t get a chance to tell you everything I know about the mystery of the Lithgow Panther. So herein lies everything I know about the Lithgow Panther…
A decades-old myth has raised it’s head again with the suggestion by the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Nathan Rees, that the mythical Lithgow or Penrith Panther may not so mythical after all. Mr Rees made the statement after he was sent a database from a Western-Sydney woman containing approximately 600 testimonials from people claiming to have seen the creature. “I don’t think it’s necessarily an urban myth,” Mr Rees told reporters in Penrith recently. “There are too many people reporting sightings.” It is a turnaround for Mr Rees, who was quoted in August as saying the “black panther is an urban myth”.
“Of particular concern is if there are little kids out there and there actually is one of these things,” Mr Rees said yesterday. “It is easy for all of us to dismiss these things … but if we’re actually wrong then there is an altogether different set of scenarios.”
Not surprisingly, his statements have thrilled cryptozoologists nationwide, with the most famous, Tim “the Yowie” man welcoming suggestions that the famous black cat may be further investigated. However he also wants the government to investigate other NSW mysteries, including the UFOs of the Central Coast, the Burrawang Bunjip and of course his personal favourite, Yowies. “Mystery big cats aren’t the only mysterious phenomenon in NSW”, he said. Right….
The evidence so far: • March 2003: Kenshurst teenager Luke Walker suffered deep cuts as a result of a struggle with a panther-like cat, NSW government re-opens the case. • Analysis of scat samples deemed to belong to a “large cat” • Numerous sightings from “highly credible” witnesses, including a Qantas pilot and a NSW Police officer. Well then, it must be true. • 600 people post testimonials of sightings on a database (NB: testimonials do not constitute evidence).
This is not the first time calls have been made to investigate the mythical panther. In fact several investigations have already been conducted, both government sponsored and privately funded. Following an attack on a teenage boy by what he reported was a panther-like cat in 2003, an investigation was commenced by NSW Agriculture.
The examination reviewed sightings and conducted interviews with residents from the town of Grose Vale where the creature has been frequently sighted. Whilst no conclusive evidence for the existence of the creature was found the NSW government report concluded that, “…the presence of free-ranging exotic large cats in NSW…cannot be discounted and seems more likely than not, on available evidence”. This was supported by a previous report conducted by veterinarian Dr Keith Hart who concluded a large cat was living in the Grose Vale area following analyses of scat (poo) samples.
Also in 2005, a documentary team commissioned by the Discovery Channel produced an hour long documentary about the possible existence of black panthers (I can’t find a copy of it, so I don’t know the outcome, suffice to say if they had found it, I would not be writing this blog). Further support for the presence of big cats comes from the knowledge that American gold miners brought big cats to the region in the 1850s as did soldiers returning from WWII (they did? What the devil for?).
All this evidence suggests the possibility of the existence of panther-like creatures, but is not conclusive. Testimonials and poo are not really enough evidence, and if so many people have seen these creatures why do we only have one piece of grainy video footage (why is it always grainy?).
Andrew Prentice, a resident of Grose Vale where many of the sightings occur, reported seeing the panther one rainy morning. He told the Sun-Herald, “I noticed this large black animal come
out ?of the side of my dam…I looked at it in utter disbelief. I looked again and again…. The thought of a camera never even came into play. I just kept thinking, this is bloody unbelievable”.
The reason it’s unbelievable is because no-one has a good photo of it Andrew! What is it about aliens and monsters that makes us forget to reach for the camera, sheesh.
I asked a Lithgow resident whether she* had ever seen the elusive creature and what was the general feeling amongst locals about their mythical feline friend, to which she responded, “don’t see many locals, they’re all out looking for the panther”. And she was no more impressed with the information that poo samples had been analysed and identified as belonging to a large cat; “yeah? well smells poohy to me”. Hmmm, not a believer I presume. In the meantime, sceptics (also known as sensible people) say the panther sightings are likely nothing more than large feral cats with thick winter coats.
The best thing to come out of yesterdays embarrassment for my mind were the headlines; journalists had a field day. Two of my favourites were; “Lithgow Panther mystery; has Rees but Big Foot in it?” and “Premier sinks claws into mystery”. The final word goes to the opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell who upon hearing Mr Rees’ statement, declared that he was “waiting for Mr Rees to start investigating flying pigs”. I’ll be sure to let you know the outcome of that investigation.
Visit http://www.mysteriousaustralia.com/australian_panther_mainpage.html for extensive archived material on the search for the Lithgow Panther.