“This beautiful black cat”: Lorne man reveals vision of “Otway panther”
IN THE early hours of a Monday morning on February 28, something unusual caught the eye of Lorne’s Perry Childs as he looked out from his third-floor balcony in the Cumberland Lorne Resort, towards the Great Ocean Road.
The South African expat had just finished speaking with his family back home at 2:40am, had made himself a coffee and was looking towards the ocean when he saw movement down on the street.
“When I looked again it was walking on the curbside of Mountjoy Parade and it walked past the Telstra call box and past the bins and then I realised that this is big”, he said holding his hands out around a metre wide in estimation of its size.
“About the size of a cheetah, but bulkier… muscular and black.”
“I just looked at this, gobsmacked, wanting to get my mobile to take a shot of it but it was on charge and I didn’t want to miss anything, but I also realised that the plaza has CCTV,” so he kept watching it prowl around for the next 5-10 minutes.
“It spent a bit of time in front of the garbage bins because over the weekend there’s normally a bit of overflow, it might have found something there, I don’t know. But, it wasn’t rushed, it wasn’t chasing…it was walking around like it owned the joint and had been here before.
After the siting, Mr Childs sought to view the footage from the multiple CCTV cameras operated by the buildings management.
“The footage that has been made available is quite grainy,” he said, largely owing to the cameras being 30 years old.
“That’s the unfortunate thing, but I don’t think that anywhere where there’s that many cameras, all situated around the plaza, that many cameras that have had different angles of this beautiful black cat.
Having spoken with family and friends about what he saw, Mr Childs said some already knew of it.
“Everybody refers to it as the Otway panther.
“A lot of the locals said ‘yeah, we’ve heard that before’ and eyes rolled up and obviously they don’t believe in it.
There have neen several sitings of the ‘Otways panther’ in the region over the years, including from professional local photographer Amber Noseda, who released several images of a sleek black cat like creature she encountered in the Otways hinterland in 2020.
Perry Childs said he was previously unaware of the folklore surrounding big cats in the region before he stood on his balcony and watched the animal
“Unbeknown to me the Otway panther has been in the Lorne and South coast folklore for years and it appears that it was a mascot with second world war servicemen and it was left behind or escaped, and/or it was a circus animal, who knows.
After years of conjecture about the existence of big cats in the state, a 2012 study commissioned by the Victorian government concluded that it’s highly unlikely that they exist.
“It is definitely not your run of the mill household cat looking for a couple of scraps, Mr Childs said.
“This is a cat, a big cat, and my firm belief is that it’s a panther.”
“I come from Africa, I know cats and for me it’s not the size of a lion, or a leopard, it’s the size of a cheetah, but bulkier, it’s got more muscle, but it would be the same size. Your household cat would be nowhere near that.”
To view the footage of the cat and an interview with Perry Childs, scan the QR code with your smartphone.