Recently news was released that the old owner of the Dartmoor Zoo, Mary Chipperfield, let three cats escape in 1978.
The Telegraph reports:
"For years, the rumors of big cats roaming Dartmoor and savaging livestock have been dismissed as sheer fantasy, no more credible than claims of the existence of the Loch Ness monster.
"But the doubters may have - dare one say it - paws for thought.
"For the claims that Big Cats are roaming free may actually be true, with the mystery of how they got to Dartmoor and nearby Exmoor and Bodmin Moor solved at last.
"It is now claimed that three pumas were released onto the wilds of Dartmoor by Mary Chipperfield, the famous circus owner, after her zoo in Plymouth was forced to shut down in 1978.
"The large cats were being driven to their new home at the moor's wildlife park by Ms Chipperfield - but that only two out of a consignment of five pumas ever arrived.
"It is thought Ms Chipperfiled released her favorite breeding pair and another male into the wild rather than see them go into a new home.
"The claim has surfaced in the wake of the disappearance from Dartmoor Zoo in Flaviu, a rare lynx, which escaped from its enclosure earlier this month.
"Benjamin Mee, owner of the zoo, said yesterday [NOTE: that would be July 20th] that while Flaviu's escape was somewhat unfortunate, his disappearance is far from a first.
"Mr Mee said that when he bought the zoo for £1 million in 2006, he was informed of a pack of pumas that had allegedly been released into the wild in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
"'There were lots of rumors and many different stories about how they got out,' said Mr Mee. 'Some say they were released from the old zoo either my mistake or on purpose - we just don't know - while some others say they were being transported here at the time from the zoo in Plymouth.
"'I have no knowledge of the circumstances about how it happened. But at the time there were three pumas that should have been here at Dartmoor Zoo and were not.'
You can read the rest of the article here.
Three escaped/released pumas could account for some sightings of Big Cats in Britain, but not all of them. There were some reports before the time the cats were released, and some ABC reports have decidedly paranormal/supernatural qualities to them.
Does this solve the mystery, or not? Either way, I'm sure the debate about the existence of the cats will go on.