After writing about Anomalous Big Cats the other month I had a thought- what if they really were really, really real. What if the Cotswolds really was riddled with them? What would that mean for them, and nature conservation, in the UK?
Now, as a subject, I’ll be upfront – I love Anomalous Big Cats. I love the very idea of them, I love the scant and fleeting little YouTube clips, I love the anecdotes of dubious provenance, I love the theories, the speculation and the occasionally bat-shit mental suppositions and conspiracies. It entertains me enormously. Maybe I’m the kind of person who can get overly caught up in the enigmatic. My wife (yes, I really have managed to get married) lives in constant fear that I will run away to search for a remnant population of the Thylacine or some such. OK, ‘fear’ might be the wrong word. Hope. Yes, hope, that’s what I meant.
So I pondered, well, just what would the ramifications be if somehow a feral population of melanistic panther/puma/whatever were discovered to exist somewhere other than the odd dog-walker’s subconscious? I’ve never bought in entirely to Monbiot’s theory that it is some kind of subliminal, hindbrain response to a world denuded of all that is wild. And I’ve never entirely discounted the notion that there might just be one or two anomalies scurrying around out there. But if a full, breeding population was proven? Then what? Do we protect them? Do we eradicate them? Do we work to encourage breeding?
I suspect there’d be a call to properly study the population scientifically, and that is certainly what Natural England would agree to. Almost immediately, the study would have its funding quietly trimmed and a suggestion would arise that a more focused study on the economic impact to farming concerns would be more beneficial. Despite concerns being voiced from the scientific community, all livestock lost to predators become listed as ‘potential Big Cat kills’, while the transmission of a disease from Big Cats to sheep is described as ‘not yet proven.’
Finally, the report would be published, and would clearly state that the Big Cat population presents no significant danger to humans or native wildlife and that livestock loss will be minimal. It even suggests the population might be beneficial for controlling the ballooning deer population. Having read this, Liz Truss will nod her head sagely and order a widescale, expensive culling program to eradicate the Big Cat menace. A year later and with no confirmed kills, the reinstated Environmental Secretary and UKIP MP Owen Paterson will announce that the Big Cat population never even existed in the first place and this is why you should never trust scientists. In the same speech he will state that Climate Change is an entirely natural process that the UKIP/Conservative coalition will be doing it’s very best to enhance while announcing the lucrative new opening of Farageton, a new port town on the Somerset Levels.
I have already extrapolated mentally to a whole host of other cryptids and maybe one day when I’m really short of ideas I’ll write about that (put briefly, it’s good news for Nessie (Heritage Lottery Funding) but bad news for Yetis (Chinese herbal medicine market)). For now, I’m off to pack my bags and look up flights to Tasmania.