Big cat hunters in Chidlow searching for proof in new doco

Vaughan King, founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group.
Vaughan King, founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group.

DEEPLY ingrained in Hills folklore are tales of big cats roaming the bush.

Still to this day no one has successfully documented a panther in the wild, despite thousands of sightings.

Now a new documentary titled The Hunt is following big cat hunters Simon Townsend and John Turner on their lifelong journey to prove their existence in Australia.

The film explores the potential origins of these animals in Australia, as well as investigating the numerous sightings, photos and DNA samples collected along the journey.

Joining the team on the prowl for proof is former Kalamunda resident Vaughan King, founder of the Australian Big Cat Research Group, who believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that big cats are in the Hills.

Mr King said thermal imaging drones and motion activated camera traps were being used by filmmakers to finally capture proof of the legendary big cats once and for all.

“We were out in the west last month, looking into a number of recent reports of big cat sightings,” he said.

“We are searching a fairly extensive area from Chidlow down to Collie and everywhere in between.

“We will be returning over the coming months to check on our camera traps, as well as engage the use of thermal drone/UAV as part of aerial surveying – which is the first time this has been done in Australia in the search for big cat populations.

“It’s an exciting project to say the least.”

Mr King said the Darling Scarp provided prime habitat not only for feral cats but big cats such as cougars and panthers.

He said documented sightings pointed to a healthy, established population of cougars and panthers, and possibly black leopards, surviving and thriving in outer lying areas of Perth, including Yanchep.

“The thick bush that covers the Hills would allow a population of big cats to live out its days relatively inconspicuously. It has the three main things a big cat needs to survive: prey, water and shelter,” he said.