Feral lions in Britain?

This 27 August 2018 video from England says about itself:

As Essex police call off a search for a supposed lion, Channel 4 News asks whether it ever really existed. Jane Dodge reports.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Frosty’s Ramblings: Watch out – there’s a lion about

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Should we be surprised that Clacton Police have been hunting a lion in the countryside of Essex?

Perhaps not. It could have been a dog, a complete hoax or it could have been an illegal pet lion. Such things certainly exist.

When you are so rich you just don’t know what to do with your money then really exotic pets are a spectacular way of parading your wealth and big cats are most popular of all.

Texas, for instance, not only has more millionaires than anywhere else on the surface of the earth – the state also has more pet tigers than there are wild tigers in the whole of the Indian subcontinent.

And what Texas does today some ultra-rich and less principled inhabitants of Essex aspire to for tomorrow.

If you are a millionaire gangster, drug dealer or shady property developer then the ideal gift for the one you love might be a lion or leopard cub. It looks wonderful in the photographs.

It’s not even necessarily illegal.

Back in 2006 the media reported that there were a dozen lions, 14 tigers, 50 leopards and scores of other big cats being kept as pets in Britain by licensed private owners.

These figures did not include zoo or circus animals.

There is also a vast trade in smuggled illegal pets from endangered parrots to poisonous snakes as well as all kinds of big cats. Just look for what you want on the internet.

A new industry has even developed cross-breeding smaller jungle felines such as servals and leopard cats with domestic breeds to produce designer big-cat type pets.

Under the Dangerous Wild Animal Act 1976, private owners of all ferocious animals are required to buy an annual licence from their local authority. As we know from dangerous dogs many simply don’t bother.

So what do these moneyed owners do when their baby lion or leopard cub or other big cat gets too big to handle, or the owner get bored or is forced to spend the summer in their Caribbean tax haven or just flee the law?

The hard-hearted will shoot the beast and turn it into a rug.

Others will take it out into the countryside to dump it to fend for itself.

That, of course, is the origin of some of the reported sightings of big cats in our countryside and perhaps even that bank holiday Essex lion.

Not all big cat sightings can be confirmed, of course – many can be put down to an overactive imagination enhanced by drink. Many are simply hoaxes.

Some are misidentified dogs, foxes, badgers, wild boar, deer or even sheep.

Some will simply be feral cats – domesticated moggies that have made a break for freedom.

Fitter and larger than domestic cats, they have been known to jump a five-barred gate with a fully grown rabbit in their mouth.

Feral cats are far more common than you would imagine.

Other sightings are reported as lions, tigers, leopards, panthers, pumas, “big black cats” or just “beasts.”

Only a few are certainly genuine.

In 1980 a puma was captured in Inverness, Scotland. This big cat was an abandoned pet. It is now stuffed in Edinburgh museum.

In 1993 a leopard was shot on the Isle of Wight.

In 2001 a lynx was captured alive in London’s Cricklewood. The frightening beast was four times larger than a domestic pet cat.

So will we ever know just where that Essex lion came from or exactly what it was? Probably not.

However we do know there are far bigger and darker secrets behind the radio-controlled gates of some of those huge villas in Essex’s millionaire belt and villains far more frightening than any king of the jungle.

According to the BBC:

‘Essex lion was my pet cat Teddy Bear’ – owner

With claims big cats are stalking the countryside, researchers are developing a DNA test to identify Scotland’s pure-bred wildcats: here.

11 thoughts on “Feral lions in Britain?

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