We've got a terrific project running in Northern New South Wales, bringing a huge number of players together that have an interest in wild dog control. I thought it would be an excellent topic for Feral Talkback on ABC 666 but I got distracted when the office temp mentioned she was from the area. Specifically, she was from Emmaville, a New England town famed for the "Emmaville Panther" - one of Australia's more frequently sighted big cats.
The Emmaville Panther is not alone: there is the mainland thylacine, the Grampians Lion or Puma, the Cordering Cougar, the Queensland Tiger, the Beast of Buderim, the Lithgow Panther, the Tarana Tiger and the Blue Mountains Panther, and probably many more.
Do we simply dismiss these reports out of hand? In 2001 the NSW DPI investigated the Lithgow Panther sightings because so many were received from credible people and the then Director General, Kevin Sheridan, was reported as being concerned about the Department's duty of care should a human injury occur. No evidence of a panther was found. Deakin University is reported to have investigated the Grampian Lion.
The Emmaville Panther was widely reported during 1956-57 and 340 sheep are reported to have been killed on "Pretty Gully", a property near Uralla. The origin of the panther/lion/puma in this instance and most others tends to be based on escaped circus animals or mascots left by American servicemen. However, the Sydney Sun (reported via the website www.thylacoleo.com) in 1969 interviewed Arthur Davies who claimed to have trapped a panther in 1939. Arthur's panther bore remarkable resemblance to the Marsupial Lion, the largest Australian mammalian carnivore, which became extinct in the Pleistocene era, maybe 10,000 to 25,000 years ago, certainly after Aboriginal settlement.
I reckon getting nine Rural Land Protection Boards in Northern NSW working on the Wild Dog Demonstration site represents work aplenty for researchers Peter Fleming and Guy Ballard, without having to worry about panthers/lions/puma/thylacoleo for the moment. Mind you, any sightings to date unreported would be welcome on ABC 666 Mornings with Alex Sloan 1 300 681 666 after the news at 10 Wednesday 22 August.
Besides panthers, we'll talk about the wild dog project and remind listeners about the University of Canberra's Open Day this Saturday and the Canberra Indian Myna Action Group's public meeting at Wests Club from 7.30 Wednesday 22 August.