Black panther roams S France beauty spot

22nd June 2004, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, June 21 (AFP) - Around 150 soldiers, police and rangers are to beat scrubland in southern France on Tuesday in a bid to flush out a mysterious animal several witnesses have described as a panther.

MARSEILLE, France, June 21 (AFP) - Around 150 soldiers, police and rangers are to beat scrubland in southern France on Tuesday in a bid to flush out a mysterious animal several witnesses have described as a panther.

The operation was to take place in the "calanques", an uninhabited area of rocky coves popular with tourists, located along the Mediterranean coast just east of Marseille.
The area has been closed to the public since the beginning of the month, when the first sighting was reported.

Since then, some 20 people have come forward to say they have seen an animal that looks like a black panther padding around the area.
On Saturday, a policeman on patrol became the latest to say he had seen the feline.

"It was around 50 metres (yards) from us in a hollow, well in sight. The truck's engine probably caused it to run off. It made five or six very short, very graceful leaps, but it was enough to see that it really was a black panther, not very big. It disappeared into the bushes," police officer Antoine Delmas said.

More senior officers said they remained sceptical in the absence of proof, such as panther excrement, but experts stressed that such big cats are notoriously wily creatures which keep well hidden.

A local official responsible for the protection of the coves, Laure-Agnes Caradec, said inquiries made to zoos and circuses had drawn a blank, leading the authorities to believe the animal may have been kept as a pet and escaped.


© AFP

Subject: French news

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