DEBUNKING the theory that this photograph of a black panther proves that big cats roam the British countryside

The Times and other news media outlets, today, August 16, 2023, report on the discovery of a photograph of what to me is clearly a melanistic leopard (black panther) in long grass which carried an inscription saying that it was taken in Smallthorne, Staffordshire, UK. The person who wrote the inscription did not provide their full name nor their address and it is undated. It was apparently sent to the Centre for Fortean Zoology.


The photograph news media which the expert state prove conclusively that there is a black panther in the British countryside, is a fake because you can see a genuine photograph of a black panther on the Pinterest website. I reproduced it below. This photograph has been knitted into the sensationalised story circulating many news media outlets.

Pinterest photo of a black panther.
As far as I can tell, the original black panther photograph which has been employed in photo editing to produce the photographs below.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Below are the photographs supporting the theory that there is a genuine big cat running around the British countryside. This is been debunked by this article and my thanks to the person who commented for picking out the above photograph from Pinterest which tells us unequivocally that this image was photoshopped i.e. photo edited.

The photograph is part of a documentary film to be aired later this year in the UK on Amazon Prime Video called Panthera Britannia Declassified.

The filmmakers are ecstatic about the finding but I’m going to debunk it. I’m going to prove that this is not evidence that there are big cats roaming the British countryside. And let’s be sure, this is the clearest evidence yet they say.


A quick search using Google Maps tells me that Smallthorne is a very small urban district in Stoke-on-Trent, UK. It is not, positively not, the British countryside. Therefore, this picture was not taken in the British countryside.

Perhaps the person who sent it in to the archive lived in Stoke-on-Trent! But this surely undermines the veracity of this photograph as good evidence.

Here is a closeup of the location. Entirely urban. No fields!

Smallthorne as per Google Maps.

Contextual landmarks?

Also, there are no contextual landmarks in the photograph to confirm that it was taken in the British countryside. On the face of it, the photograph could have been taken anywhere, in any country. It probably was taken somewhere other than the UK.

If it was taken in the UK, it might have been in a private zoo. It is legally possible to own a black panther in the UK with a licence provided you meet the requirements of that licence. Although clearly, they are rare.

SIDEBAR: In countries such as America, private zoos are common. Although the Big Cat Public Safety Act has stopped the ownership of big cats in the USA. In essence private zoos containing big cats are being phased out in the US thanks to this act which was drawn up, debated and created because of the efforts of Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue. That’s another story.

Definitely a black panther but I am unenthusiastic about it

Back this photograph. It is certainly a melanistic leopard but I am not as enthusiastic as Carl Marshall, the assistant director of the above-mentioned centre who told the documentary: “The photograph is unambiguous, it is clearly a large cat of the Panthera genus, and it’s so clear we can even see it whiskers. The photograph was attached to a mysterious handwritten letter, which includes a date without the year, isn’t signed with a full name and doesn’t have the sender’s address. It does state the photo was taken and if it’s genuine, there is probably the best photo of a British big cat that exists.”

I fully disagree for the reasons stated above. This is another red herring to follow all the others which are always fuzzy pictures of black domestic cats meandering through a field innocently minding their own business doing a spot of hunting while their home is a few hundred yards away on the edge of the countryside.

3 thoughts on “DEBUNKING the theory that this photograph of a black panther proves that big cats roam the British countryside”

  1. It’s already been conclusively proven to be a fake.
    Amazing as it might sound, it’s just based on an obvious stock photo on Pinterest and other sources here –>
    There’s a full takedown here on Twitter / “X” –>
    That this made it into all corners of the major UK media is just ludicrous (although maybe we all just really understand that the Essex Lion was too much fun a few years’ ago and we want to play that game again…)

  2. As a photo-editor, photographer, graphic designer and illustrator, I can immediately tell the photo is either fake or deliberately enhanced. The colour temperature and saturation just doesn’t match!


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