The Beast of Hayling Island?21 March 2016
For immediate release
The Beast of Hayling Island? Or just a harmless wild cat that lost its way?
Visitors to The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre may wonder if their eyes are deceiving them – an exotic beast can now be found lurking in the Museum.
But this is no creature from foreign parts – it was discovered on Hayling Island as recently as 1988. In a glass case, stuffed and mounted, is the amazing ‘Swamp Cat’ – sadly killed by a car in West Lane, Hayling Island. How it came to be there is a complete mystery, as the species in normally found in Lower Egypt, through the Middle East to most of Asia.
The Swamp Cat (or ‘Jungle Cat’ or ‘Reed Cat’) is common in parts of India, and lives on a variety of small mammals and birds. It has adapted well to the presence of humans, and in its native habitat can often be found around towns and villages.
What was the exotic feline doing in the South of England? Sightings and photographic evidence would suggest that quite a few of them are living feral in this country, and could well account for at least some of the reported sightings of ‘big cats’. Presumably, our Swamp Cat escaped from someone’s private collection. And it may not be the last, as there have been other tantalising sightings on Hayling before and since.
Residents of Hayling Island have a definite affection for their Swamp Cat, which until recently was kept at the Hampshire County Museum Service store at Chilcomb House, Winchester, where it could be visited for purposes of research. Now, however, it can be seen at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre in Havant – in good shape after the first attempt at taxidermy was later revised to produce the fine specimen now on display.
Sophie Fullerlove, Director of The Spring, says: “We are delighted that we have been given permission to bring the Swamp Cat to join our Museum collection, and hope that as many people as possible will take the opportunity to come and see this amazing exhibit.”
With its appealing face and fine golden eyes, the Hayling Island Swamp Cat is no terrifying beast – just an intriguing visitor from foreign parts who ended up in Hampshire.
Participation and Heritage Officer
Tel: 02392 249063