Vaughn King and John Turner on the set of The Hunt, a documentary in the making about a big cat sightings in Australia.
Vaughn King and John Turner on the set of The Hunt, a documentary in the making about a big cat sightings in Australia. Stu Ross -Robot Army Productions

On the hunt for the Northern Rivers' black panther

COUGARS, leopards and black panthers are animals you wouldn't think inhabit the Northern Rivers bushland.

But a black panther was recently spotted in Bonalbo last month and the sighting is set to be investigated by a team of researchers who are hell-bent on proving big cats are real.

Director of photography for documentary The Hunt, Stu Ross, is in the midst of filming Big Cats Victoria researchers Simon Townsend and John Turner on their mission to prove a big cat population, such as the black leopard and panther exists in remote areas of the Australian Bush.

With more than one big cat sighting in Australia reported every day on bigcats.com.au and footage and reports submitted regularly to Mr Ross and his team, the Geelong man revealed there had been numerous big cat sightings Northern NSW. .

"On July 4, there was a sighting in Bonalbo," Mr Ross said.

"A person saw a black panther caught in their headlights on their driveway. They said it could only be described a black panther."

Mr Ross said, sightings in WA would mean they may not be able to investigate the Bonalbo sighting.

"We are currently investigating a vocalisation we recorded in WA that we believe is a cougar," he said.

"We headed over there to interview residents about the sighting and set up motion activated camera traps on their property to try and capture footage. For each sighting we weigh up all the information and and justify whether to travel to investigate."

He said the team wanted to track down the owner of footage of a Black Panther in Nimbin submitted to The Northern Star in 2012 to include in the documentary.

"We use another bit of footage of a black panther that was shot about 10 years ago at Windamere Dam near Mudgee," he said.

"We will investigate as many sighting to become available to us in the next six months of filming."

Mr Ross said he was excited to be working with big cat expert Vaughn King on The Hunt.

"He is stepping up to take the reigns from Simon and John. Vaughn's a former Australia Zoo handler ... but he left there to pursue this big cat thing once and for all," he said.

The Hunt follows the emotional journey the three researchers go on, the constant disappointment, the obsession, and what drives them, despite public scepticism, an overwhelming lack of support and government funding for their activities.

The Hunt is set for release in mid 2019 by Army Robot Productions.



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