Up close and personal with big cats near St Albans

Terry Moore with snow leopard cubs

Terry Moore with snow leopard cubs - Credit: Archant

Sceptical incredulity, bemused curiosity, and barely concealed delight is a standard reaction here at the Herts Ad office every time another witness comes forward to talk about their sighting of the supposed beast prowling the fields of Hertfordshire.

“Another one?”, my cynical colleague scoffs. “Show me a picture, then I’ll believe it.”

But I am not so confident - a Freedom of Information request late last year revealed there have been nearly 30 sightings of a big cat around the district - including Wheathampstead, St Albans, and Sandridge - reported to Herts Police in the past five years, and eyewitnesses I have spoken to do not seem delusional.

They all swear it is huge and feline, and they have not read our stories before stumbling across the big cat.

If anybody should know if they have seen a big cat, it is Dr Terry Moore, honorary director of Welwyn-based charity The Cat Survival Trust - he reports two close-up encounters with pumas in Hatfield, among other sightings.

So when my editor suggested I go to the trust to meet him and all the rescued cats there, I was thrilled.

The 41-year-old charity houses more than 10 breeds of cat, along with raccoons, lemars and owls, and has been featured on Channel 5, in a seven-part TV series for Animal Planet called the Snow Leopards of Leafy London, and on ITV’s Daybreak.

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Animals there enjoy peace and quiet because it is not open to the public - the 12 acre former farmyard site is a rescue and breeding sanctuary for unwanted zoo, confiscated illegal, and endangered animals.

As the only British charity dedicated to wild cat species, the trust started by working to breed endangered species in captivity and then release them into the wild, but this proved difficult as success rates are as low as 15 per cent.