I have made a terrible oversight. An omission of the highest order. I have been chattering away on this blog for nearly three years and I have not once introduced you to Coolatai’s claim to fame. Our legend. The story that put us on the map.
Coolatai has a black panther.
Here in Australia there have always been whispers of a mysterious black panther slipping quietly through the bush. This may seem unremarkable to the rest of the world but Australia is an island continent and the closest we have to a large feline is a house-cat or the Tasmanian Tiger, which we shot out of existence back in the 1930s. So a panther is quite exciting.
Many innuendos surround our panther (almost always referred to in the singular). It escaped from a zoo or a circus some reports claim. The Americans brought it over as a mascot in WW2 another authority states. But it was here in Coolatai in 1958 that the biggest “panther outbreak” occurred when 13 year-old David Wheatley was thrown from his horse when it spooked at a “large, black-furred, panther-like beast.”
The story made headlines in the national press. Old Coolatai –ites came forward with sightings dating back a decade. Another young bloke was holed up in his caravan all night as the panther prowled around outside. Even a visiting Sydney pianist insisted he had seen the panther on the road. The Wallaroo Hotel fattened on the rumours.
The legend grew. In 1995 a book titled “Mysterious Australia” was published and an expert stated the panthers (note the use of the plural – obviously there had been a breeding program) lived in Coolatai and made an annual migratory pattern through-out the north-west.
Today there is a painting in the Wallaroo Hotel showing the black panther attacking a huge black feral pig; and though no tracks, nor skins, nor bodies have ever been found, the stories persist. A report in the esteemed Coolatai Bush Telegraph only a few years ago suggested there were panther kittens living under a local house and fleeting black shapes are common on the road home from the pub.
But what of photos I hear you ask? Well these are what I have obtained from dogged research. Behold and be amazed.