27 Oct 2020

Another glimpse of the mysterious South Island giant cat

From Checkpoint, 5:30 pm on 27 October 2020

Sightings of the fabled giant South Island cat have been circulating since about the 1990s, everywhere from Canterbury to Marlborough to Southland.

The latest has been at Hanmer Springs. At about midday on Sunday, Christchurch osteopath Mark Orr was mountain biking on the Perseverance Bike track, when he swears he spotted it.

"It sort of looked like a big black cat really, about knee height… pretty stocky when it turned around and had a look at us," Orr told Checkpoint.

"We were out biking and there was a tree that had fallen on the bike path, so luckily we had to stop.

"We were getting the bikes over the tree and just as we got one over we saw it, was sort of walking away and it just turned around and had a look at us. And then just kept walking and just walked the whole way down the path, which you can see in that footage.

"We only moved to New Zealand in January. We're from Australia, so my first thought was, I didn't know there was panthers in New Zealand. And I just thought it must have been a more common thing.

"Then after we started Googling it, and realised it was a bit more rare than we first thought.

"I messaged one of our mates who lives here and told him and he said, 'You got to send that through to someone, because it's pretty big what you found."

Orr thinks it was about 50 metres away when he spotted it, but he did not think to get the phone out in the moment.

As it moved away to about 100 his partner was able to get the video footage, he said.

"There is no chance that was a dog. None at all… There's nothing in it for me to go around telling people that I saw something I didn't, but it was definitely a big cat, there's no doubt about it in my mind anyway."

Orr told Checkpoint he does not wear glasses, and has 20/20 vision. 

"It just walked the whole way down the path for about a minute and a half, two minutes, it just sort of walked down the path like it owned the place, which was pretty cool to watch actually, once we realised what was going on.

"I'm not David Attenborough, I don't know, but to me it definitely looked like some sort of a big cat… the strongest looking largest cat I've seen, so in my eyes, it looked exactly like a panther."