On Sunday I received two photographs from the Daily Star. They asked me to identify them, and after consulting with Darren Naish, Jonathan McGowan and two vets (Aurelia and Shosh) I wrote the following email to the newspaper:
Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. Having checked with a zoologist, a big cat tracker and a vet we think it is a large domestic cat, probably a Russian Blue, or a crossbreed with Russian blue ancestry.
The article, when it appeared, made no mention of my email but wrote:
A British wildlife organisation said it had proof the animals were still alive and well in Britain.
And Jonathan Downes, director for the Centre for Fortean Zoology in Devon, said: “We know there were lynx living in Britain 1,500 years ago, but could they still be here?”
I did actually say that a few days earlier, it is true, but it was in answer by a question from a different journalist, from a different paper, and in answer to questions about the lynx that Max discovered in the vaults of Bristol Museum. So whilst technically the newspaper has done nothing wrong at all, it performed a clever piece of journalistic prestidigitation with that quote.
And they didn't even have to hack my telephone to get it.