Government pledge for panther search

The State Government will join the hunt for the Otways panther.

The State Government will investigate the mysterious Otways panther.

After decades of sightings of big cats in the Otways, Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the government would investigate the animals’ existence.

“We have committed to a limited investigation to determine once and for all whether there is any truth to the folklore,” Mr Walsh said.

“We have reviewed the files held by the Department of Primary Industries on big cats,” he said.

“They show that, although there have been sporadic yet unconfirmed reports of big cat sightings in Victoria over the past decade, there is no real evidence to either support or dismiss the theory that big cats exist.”

Independent researcher Michael Moss, of Richmond, has investigated sightings of big cats in the Otways since 1985.

He last year wrote to Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, who told him the government would research the animal if the Coalition won the state election.

“Now that he’s in power this is great news, because it means we’ll finally see some action on the issue,” Mr Moss said.

“The previous government weren’t interested at all, they compared big cat sightings to UFO sightings which is ridiculous,” he said.

In a previous letter to Mr Moss, Mr Ryan outlined the Coalition’s policy on big cats.

“I would direct that all appropriate resources, including relevant advice from overseas, be assembled for the purposes of developing a program to track one or more of the big cats or to otherwise provide an explanation for those numerous instances where evidence of these animals is said to have occurred,” Mr Ryan wrote.

Mr Moss, who said he had never seen a big cat, said he looked forward to the government’s assessment.

“It will just be good to have that research and maybe get an answer for all of the mysterious stock kills and sightings by farmers,” he said.

Great Ocean Road Skeptics group member Dr Michael Vagg said it would be a “shame for the government to spend a substantial amount of money” on researching the existence of the Otways panther.

“I’d be interested to see what the Coalition’s commitment would be in terms of taxpayer money,” Dr Vagg said.

“If there really is something unusual out there worth finding, then maybe give a small amount to Parks Victoria to look into it but I’d say there are better research subjects to spend a lot of money on,” he said.

“It’s interesting that the sightings don’t come from park rangers or people who work in the Otways though, it’s often someone who isn’t aware of the illusions that the bush can play on people in terms of the scale of things.”

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