Big cats at Bluewater|Ed Malone||11/06/05 at 08:49:57|Obadiah|xx|0||

By Neil Arnold, Kent Big Cat Research

Bluewater Shopping Centre, near Greenhithe, is a huge and busy
gathering place for shop-a-holics, celebrities meeting for a coffee,
families visiting the food courts and young people eager to pick up
the latest fashion trends.

It's a buzzing, clean environment carved into the chalk hills which
attracts thousands of people a day. None of these people are probably
aware that on the outskirts of this huge mall lurk large wild
animals, slinking felids thought only to be native to Africa, Asia
and parts of the USA.

A black leopard
At the beginning of July 2005 a local lady on three occasions spotted
a strange muscular creature moving gracefully through the undergrowth
of her garden at Bean.

Each time the animal had slinked into her garden she knew it was
there, her two pet dogs had gone ballistic, sensing something unknown
was prowling just 30 yards away, causing them to flee and cower
beneath the table.

The witness couldn't believe her eyes on those dusky evenings. The
animal had been the size of a Labrador dog but greyish in colour with
a white underside. Its head was small, its tail so long and curved.

She had watched it through the patio doors and eerily it stared back.
Seconds later it was gone, like a ghost. It was a Puma.

Since Bluewater opened in 1999 many eye witnesses have reported to
KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH, strange encounters with mysterious and very
large cats.

"A huge black cat emerged from nowhere and rather arrogantly walked
across the road 30 yards away. Its eyes reflected bright yellow in
the lights."
Paul Skelton
Many motorists each year travelling on the roads around the precinct
have sighted muscular cats casually walking across usually busy
lanes, whilst people visiting Bluewater on the buses have viewed
these animals wandering around local fields.

In 2001 and 2002 several motorists contacted me after having a close
encounter with a large, dark-coloured cat. They had seen the animal
around 10:30am as they slowly approached the busy intersection of
roads that circle the centre.

On one occasion a huge cat crossed in front of a Mr Adams vehicle. He
rang us shortly after the sighting: "I couldn't believe it. This
animal strolled across the road in broad daylight without a care
about 20 yards ahead causing about three vehicles to stop. It quickly
glanced at us and then slinked down the bank towards the woods. It
had the longest tail."

Several motorists, including van driver Paul Skelton saw possibly the
same cat in November 2002 at around 8:30pm. "This huge black cat
emerged from nowhere and rather arrogantly walked across the road
about 30 yards away.

Cat man: Neil Arnold
"Its eyes reflected bright yellow in the headlights. The car in front
must have got an amazing view."

The cat these people had been seeing was a Black Leopard. It's still
around now, and there's more than one.

So, why are they here ? Well, these animals have existed in the Kent
countryside for centuries, the population exploding during the 60s
and 70s when these kind of animals were kept as novelty pets, and
many were released into the wilds after the introduction of the
Dangerous Wild Animals Act.

Bluewater was, to put it simply, built on the territory of these
cats. And, as these animals hunt for food, which can mean anything
from local bird life, to foxes to rabbits to discarded food, they
will come into towns without fear.

These animals have no fear of humans and we should not fear them, but
instead, hopefully understand them and appreciate their existence,
especially as they thrive so close to a busy community.

The Black Leopard, native to Africa, is also known as a Panther, it
is a four-foot long felid that needs to be monitored and protected.

The Puma is a fawn-tan coloured cat, also called a Cougar, native to
parts of the USA and Canada. They are both shy, elusive yet curious
animals. They must not be cornered, provoked or injured.

Neil's Big Cat Research
Wild Cats in Kent (2005) >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
If you have seen one of these cats in the area? email:
Latest sightings

During the early hours of Wednesday 21st September, an Ashford woman
had a face-to-face encounter with a Black Leopard.

The female witness, who did not wish to be named, was walking her dog
after midnight, in an area of Woodchurch when her Labrador dog froze
on the spot. The lady could see, around 30 feet away, a dark shape in
the shadows which unnerved her.

The woman switched on her dim torch and the dull beam reflected two
huge, amber eyes which glared back at her.

The lady edged forward with her dog hoping that what was lurking in
the darkness would move on. It did. The animal moved out into the
street light. It was a cat, the size of a Labrador, jet-black, with
rounded ears and a very long, curved tail.

It stared at her for around 30 seconds, but the witness felt no
uneasiness. The animal then casually turned and walked away and out
of sight.

Three days previous on Sunday 18th September, a Mrs Butcher from
Aldington, was walking in private woods with her husband and son,
when approx' 100 metres away they saw a big, black animal slinking
through the trees. They all agreed it was a large cat the size of a
Labrador dog.

Both of these animals were Black Leopards, probably not the same
animal, but two of at least five roaming the Ashford area.

KENT BIG CAT RESEARCH would also like to hear more about a private
collection of cats owned in the '80s and '90s by a lady in the
Charing area and what happened to these animals.

last updated: 24/10/05

Have Your Say
Have you seen a big cat in the vicinity of Bluewater Shopping Centre?
Do you have any photos? We want to hear from you.
Your name:  
Your comment:  

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

chris g
its all interesting. there has been sightings of big cats on blue
bell hill. im all for these cats to stay in the wildand personally
like to see (what was suggested a couple of yeears ago) wolfs
introduced into the wild again. the trouble is, by the sounds of it,
the big cats are getting like foxs and entering populated areas. so
people need to be educated to not incouraging them to feed from their
bin bags and not to go near them.
Sun Oct 23 14:03:30 2005

The other day i was walking down to bluewater via the back road only
for ambulances and people and i saw in the bushes a black tail but
put it down to my imagination, maybe it wasn't and in the small
little woods near the hospital there are some big paw prints.
Fri Oct 21 13:21:45 2005

Pamela Wood
I haven't seen a big cat myself but me daughter had one in her tree
in Chastilian Rd Dartford and I have seen there paw prints in the
snow on Dartford Heath and by the railway line jst outside Dartford
Mon Oct 17 18:50:47 2005

hi i live in a small vilage near howletts an there are storeys of an
escaped panther that has been sighted in my village by my mates an
myself also some older people in the village
Sun Oct 16 16:09:45 2005

Mike I
I would love to believe in these animals but where is the eveidence
that they are anything other than large domestic moggies? Has anyone
ever found the body of one of these "big cats"?
Thu Sep 29 09:38:35 2005

Jennifer Reeves
I saw a puma like cat in Faversham about 10 yrs ago. I thought it was
a labrador right up until it scaled a 6ft fence in a very cat like
manner. The location was not far from the western link and the local
fishing lakes.
Wed Sep 28 21:08:43 2005

i saw a puma like creature over in the woods opposite my house it was
huge and definatley was not a domestic cat. i have seen it 3 or 4
times roughly in the same area.
Mon Aug 29 16:23:06 2005

If anyone sees a cat in the south-east area feel free to send me an
email. Details will not be given out, and am especially interested in
knowing of people who kept, released large cats many years ago. Neil
Thu Aug 25 14:23:10 2005

Dan Desborough
I live in Folkestone in Kent and i have seen a black leopord a few
times and even taken a photo of it in the fields behind the channel
tunnel terminal.Its been around for years now and there have been
hundreds of sightings in the past couple of years. Its such a
beautiful animal its time the goverment start to admit they exist in
our contryside and do something to protect them.
Thu Aug 25 11:58:15 2005

Fri Aug 19 15:33:39 2005

carol sloman
I saw a big black cat in the graveyard in Faversham that can be seen
from the Victoria to Margate train. I have two cats of my own and
this was three times their size,
Wed Jul 27 12:26:27 2005