"Dr Daz, Dr Daz
look at all the mystery cats he has"
For, in his words: "It's very funny how things sometimes work out. I had absolutely no plans whatsoever to cover cats at Tet Zoo this week. Then, on Friday, I watched the documentary that featured the pogeyan* and, obviously, decided that it was worth covering. And, during the County Museum visit on Saturday, my encounter with the Hayling Island Jungle cat was totally fortuitous: I'd forgotten that it was there, and probably would have missed it were it not for the fact that Chris Palmer got it out of its cabinet. Yesterday, I received some very interesting photos from Ryan Norris at the University of Vermont. As you can see, these photos feature a cat. A very, very weird cat. So, for the third time this week, here's yet another mystery cat... Maybe I should go the whole hog and make this 'mystery cat' week..."
The pictures are hiughly peculiar, and it is very difficult to know what to make of them. I, for one, have never seen anything quite like them. This animal was photographed on a building site in southern Yemen where - apparently - it is a regular visitor. But what the heck is it?
Darren goes through a list of possible identities before reluctantly concluding:
"The battered, asymmetrical ears and scars - combined with the fact that the animal regularly visits a building site and seems relatively unafraid of people - indicate that it's a feral domestic cat, and presumably a battered, and perhaps diseased, male. What do you think?"
I tend to agree with him, although it goes against every grain of my being to accept such a prosaic explanation for such a peculiar looking beastie.
However, whilst we are in the Arabian Peninsula I will give you a very tantalising little snippet that we have been working on since before Christmas. In mid December I was contacted by Jan Scarff, an old mate of mine who is now living and working in Oman. Apparently in recent months there have been sightings of a lion in one of the more remote mountainous regions. Whilst it is probable that any such animal has escaped from a private zoo, either owned by some sheikh, or by a rich businessman or hotel complex, there is an outside possibility that it could be something else entirely.
According to Guggisberg's Wild Cats of the World (1975) there were lions in Mesopotamia until WW1 and in Iran until at least the 1920s. Wikipedia says that they were found even more recently but I have not been able to ascertain when they became extinct on the Arabian peninsuala. Indeed although it was the barbary lion that was known from north Africa, and the Asiatic lion that was known in the Middle East - but which subspecies was found in Arabia?
If anyone can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with answers to any of these conundra I would be most grateful. In the meantime, whatever Darren's bizarre felid turns out to be, isn't it a wonderful feeling to know that there are still so many animal mysteried left to explore...