Leopard hair clarification
*more recent clarification can be read here*
I should probably make it clear that the views in this blog post are my own and don’t represent the other people who were present in Longleat Forest on the day we found the hair sample that has caused much excitement.
Today I had the October 2010 edition of The Fortean Times delivered in the post and in it on page 4 was an article by Lars Thomas detailing several hair samples he had dealt with recently.
Firstly I should point out that Perry & Colin are from the Four-Teans and were simply joined by some members of Wiltshire Phenomena Research,
Included was the hair sample that Wiltshire Phenomena Research found in Longleat Forest earlier this year. When Colin took the hair sample to the Weird Weekend with him it had already been tested by Rentokil (a team member works for the company) and the analysis had come back saying that the hair was feline.
Colin took the hair for further study by Lars Thomas to the CFZ Weird Weekend where it was identified as a Leopard hair. A lot of people have become excited by this, but I haven’t for several reasons.
1) One single leopard hair does not, in my opinion, prove that a leopard is living in Longleat forest. I would expect there to be other evidence too. Scat, other hairs, prints, carcasses…
2) The forests are not that large and the cat sightings have been of dark coloured cats during the day. Leopards tend to be nocturnal, though daytime sightings are possible.
In their IUCN survey of the literature, Nowell and Jackson suggest male home territories vary between 30–78 km2(7413.2 acres – 19274.2 acres), but just 15–16 km2 (3706.5 acres). Longleat Woods is 617.5 acres and wouldn’t be large enough to be the sole area for a Leopard, therefor, I would expect there to be other sightings from the area surrounding the woods of the cat.
Not to mention that close by is the Safari Park who would probably be aware if there were cats prowling the locality, which they aren’t.
3) I cannot rule out cross contamination. I am not suggesting for one minute that the hair was planted or swapped. However, because I have not observed the whole process, from the hair being collected to the hair being tested I cannot say with confidence that somewhere along the way the hair got mixed up by accident – or, indeed, as I was not at the testing, that a mistake was made (again, I am not commenting that it was, I just cannot rule it out).
As the points above point out, there are numerous reasons why I am not happy to say “there is a leopard in Longleat” because to do so would be to make a leap of logic as there isn’t, in my mind, substantial evidence to suggest this is the case at all.
I cannot deny that it is intriguing that a possible leopard hair was found in Longleat Forest, but I’m not going to make any hasty decisions over what significance it may hold, if any at all…