RLPB Veterinarian Believes Panthers Exist Near Sydney

Since the Hills News reported a panther sighting at Maraylya two weeks ago, there have been four more sightings.

Grose Vale resident Chris Coffey, who has spent thousands of dollars and many hours collating sightings, said there was a breeding population in the Hawkesbury.

"People ring and you know they have seen something because they are so upset," she said.

But, Ms Coffey said, the Department of Primary Industries is unconvinced.

"The DPI has photographs, they have got video footage but they want scientific evidence. Isn't 10cm pug prints and scratches in trees scientific evidence?"

A DPI spokesman said he was aware of a number of alleged panther sightings.

"In the past we have done a lot of work setting up cameras. At this stage we haven't come across any hard evidence that concludes there are panthers," he said.

"We take people's reports seriously. We have taken paw prints to be analysed by zoos and the results confirm a large cat, not a panther."

Ms Coffey disagrees and warns: "If you get up in the morning and find your animals badly injured or dead, don't just put it down to a dog attack. Report it to the Rural Lands Protection Board [RLPB] and someone will come out and investigate."

RLPB district veterinarian, Keith Hart, who has had experience with big cats in Africa, has lobbied on behalf of the community but said the response has to come from the DPI.

"I have no doubt they are big cats people are seeing," he said. "It's a breeding population of black panthers living on the fringe of Sydney.

"We need the State Government to issue some guidelines as to what the community should and shouldn't be doing.

"Leopards are considered the smartest of the big cats and the expertise to track them is not available in this country. At the moment they are living in a fairly cordial relationship, ignoring humans, but there is a record of a leopard in India killing 120 people. If something goes bad it could go bad in a big way."


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