Interview on Mysteries of Science podcast

I was delighted to be invited for an interview by the team at the Week Junior Mysteries of Science podcast, about my Big Cats of Britain print, as part of their episode about The Exmoor Beast and mystery big cat sightings in the U.K. in general.

The Exmoor Beast is an ongoing mystery big cats sighting in the Devon area, which came to prominence in 1983 after a farmer reported loosing many sheep, all with violent throat injuries. This story lead to national interest and even rewards being offered. There have over the years been many alleged sightings, continuing the modern myth of the Beast of Exmoor.

I designed the Big Cats of Britain originally as a tea towel for Garudio Studiage some years back, after our distributor asked for something similar to our wildlife of London, but would appeal to a UK audience rather than just London. I came up with the idea of a Big Cats of Britain Map as there was one of the stories doing the rounds about the Essex Lion (that turned out to be Teddy Bear the pet main coon cat!), and these kind of stories appealed to my imagination and sense of humour, how they persist in the public imagination and become more elaborate over time.

I already had a copy of the book mystery big cats of the world by Karl Shuker, having been a bit obsessed with ligers and tigons in the early 2000s (but that’s another story!), and this was one of the few places you could find much information, or a picture back then. In fact it was a bit of a challenge trying to get a copy then, as it was quite rare – including a disappointing trip to Catford (yes!) library that was supposed to have a copy, but it was missing… how mysterious! I ended up having to fork out a substantial amount to get a second hand copy. These days it has been re-published and you can buy an e-book version quite cheaply, just in case you want to read it! Any way, this book informed a lot of my research, along with the Big Cats of Britain Society website, (which hasn’t been updated in a while so not sure it actually exists any more),and various newspaper (mainly tabloid of course!) websites.

I do enjoy these stories, and I love to hear any big cat sightings that still crop up from time to time! I especially enjoy the ones that turn about to be something completely absurd like a cuddly toy or even a plastic bag! Or ones that happen in completely unexpected places, like Asda car park. I mean what big cat in their right mid would hang out in Asda car park?!

The episode is called Beast of Exmoor and you can listen to it here it also features the Big Cat Conversation podcast which I wish has existed when I was doing my research! The interview lasted about fifteen minutes, and then was edited into the episode. At the end I was asked if I had ever seen a big cat in the U.K., and sadly, other than in zoos and safari parks, the answer is no. That’s not to say I don’t think they exist out there, the evidence seems quite strong that there are many big cats wondering around, abandoned or escaped ‘pets’ seems very plausible. These big cats are geniuses at remaining hidden, especially from human beings, so it’s no wonder they are spotted rarely or are hard to get a good photograph of. I was lucky enough to visit Borneo once and went on wildlife spotting trips – we were pretty much told we wouldn’t see anything because all the animals remain hidden – I can’t say I blame them! Other than a few macaques and some wonderful birds, they were right – definitely no clouded leopard for us!

Strangely we have now gone from it being hard to believe these sightings because people didn’t generally wonder around with cameras until the last two decades, to a time of increased fake news and artificial intelligence, making it too easy to produce ‘evidence’, that we can’t be sure is real. Hopefully that will mean the mysteries will endure, because if we knew the answer to everything life would be much less interesting.

The nearest I get to a mystery big cat sighting, down the road from my studio in New Cross