Narooma resident Ken Barklem and his wife, Patricia, were travelling from Wagga down to the South Coast on April 27 this year when they got the shock of their lives.
They were about 10 kilometres away from Talbingo, just past the Yarrangobilly Caves, when at approximately 1pm they saw what they say was a black panther jump in front of their car.
It was only there for a second. As startled by the pair as they were by it, it sprung away and leaped down an embankment, and Ken and Patricia looked at each other in shock. ‘Did you see what I just saw?’
They realise their story sounds extraordinary. But they are “200 per cent” convinced it was a genuine sighting of the rumoured Australian Big Cat, a beast that belongs with the Yowie and the living Tassie tiger in the halls of modern Australian mythology.
“We were absolutely amazed at this thing,” said Ken.
“The only thing we can say it was is a panther sized animal. It was one o’clock on a clear day, a sunny day, and we had to discount everything else it could have been – it wasn’t a horse or a kangaroo – it was a big black cat.
“We’ve heard about them, and we’ve often wondered if it was true. I think people disbelieve us….this would have to be a once in a lifetime thing.”
However, when Ken’s story is put to long-time Talbingo farmer Beryl Ryan, she doesn’t seem as surprised as she could be.
“I’ve heard lots about that over the years, a huge black cat that’s too big to be a cat,” she said.
“I’ve seen a black cat here myself, and it was huge. I don’t know if it was a panther, but it was a huge black cat. I’ve heard a lot of that down round Corryong way, people have sighted them.
“Lots of people have commented exactly what you just said, I’ve heard it lots of times.”
Ken said he’s contacted National Parks, who hadn’t heard of any sightings. However, on the website ‘Panther People,’ there are scores of reported sightings from all around Australia, including near Narrandera, Queanbeyan, and Jindabyne.
Sightings have been occurring for over 100 years, with a NSW government inquiry establishing in 2003 that there were “more likely than not” big cats living in the state’s bushland.
Theories include that the creatures are a mutant strain of oversized feral domestic cats, exotic animals escaped from zoos or circuses, or – a particularly appealing take – that they are not big cats at all but are in fact “marsupial lions”, an evolutionary remnant from a fearsome animal that definitely once existed on our shores, thought to have gone extinct.
If anyone has any information on the Talbingo panther, Ken and Patricia are asking you to call them on 4476 3088.