Reuters Wire Service report


Animal Attack

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    Boy attacked by "panther'' in South Wales

Saturday, August 26, 2000

LONDON, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Welsh boy Joshua Hopkins was nursing cuts and scratches on Saturday after a big cat, believed to be a wild panther, attacked him in a field near his home, police said overnight.

Gwent police spokesman Adrian Herne said Joshua, 11, was clawed and bitten after being mauled as he played in long grass in Trellech, South Wales.

``He had long claw scratches to his face and injuries to his head after the encounter with the animal,'' a police spokesman said.

Joshua was shaken but not seriously injured and managed to run home, Herne said.

``The animal had blood on its jaws and its breath smelled as if if had just eaten something like a rabbit,'' Joshua was quoted as saying in The Mirror tabloid.

``Then it got my head in its jaws and bit me. I was terrified and thought it was going to kill me.''

Gwent police called in wildlife expert Danny Nineham, who examined Joshua's injuries and said the cat was most likely an immature black leopard, or panther.

Police and local people searched the area on foot and a helicopter with thermal imaging equipment was also brought in but was unable to trace its movements.

Officers warned residents in the rural area to be cautious and immediately report any sightings.

Rumours have abounded for years about feral big cats loose in various areas of Britain, with theories as to where they came from including escapes from private zoos and owners freeing pets after they grew too large to handle.

Some experts believe there could be at least 30 big cats in sparsely populated areas across the country. Until now, there have been no reports of anyone being attacked.

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