Ok, so this years Weird Weekend was not a patch on previous years. With numerous booked speakers excusing themselves from attending one after another, (causing the CFZ directorate to hastily fill in the gaps with appearances by themelves), and delegate numbers much lower than was expected.
But they still managed to turn it around for the cameras. Oh didn't I say. A camera team from Denmark was there to film proceedings.
Now apart from one of the delegates seeing a UFO on his way home fom the conference. "UFO seen at Weird Weekend" the big media savvy story was that the CFZ had found big cat hairs, prooving that big cats exist in the UK, and they were the first organisation to do so. "THERE ARE INDEED BIG CATS IN BRITAIN (BUT IT WAS THE CFZ WHO FOUND THEM)"
Now, as my name suggests, I do have a passing interest in the mysterious big cats of the UK. Athough not a member of any organisation, I do take an interest in the research done by all the main groups, "British Big Cat Society", "Big Cats In Britain", "The CFZ" as well as the smaller independant researchers, such as Frank Tunbridge and Danny Nineham amongst others.
Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that there is certainly some animosity between some of these organisations, but only one stands out as having a huge chip on their shoulders. I can find very little in print from the BBCS, BCIB and the independants belittling the work of each other's organisations. In fact I rarely find any of these groups actually commenting anything about each other in the media. It's as though they may not agree with how they go about things, or how things are percieved in the press, but it's very much live and let live, each to their own etc.
You will of course have noted that there is one exception, our good old friends the CFZ. They just can't help themselves having a little dig at the "opposition"
First, just have a look at the title of their first post on their blog. "There are indeed BIG CATS IN BRITAIN, (But it was the CFZ who found them)
Now I can't be the only one who thinks that this is a very childish headline. Using the name of a big cat organisation that Mr Downes has obvious animosity towards, and then intimating that the CFZ got the proof before them reminds me of a playground taunt. You know the type.
"Nah nah, we found them before you, nah nah nah nah nah nah"
Is this what you'd expect from a professional research organisation, of course not. Do we expect it from the CFZ, well you can make your own minds up on that one.
But lets get to "evidence" they have found. I'll let the CFZ explain the details. This is from their blog.
On Friday morning, in front of a number of witnesses and a Danish TV crew, Lars Thomas - a Danish scientist with a high reputation - analysed a number of black hairs on brambles and thorns at Huddisford Woods. Some of these hairs were found by him, and some by Andrew Perry, Nadia Novali and their friends.
The CFZ have been actively studying the big cat reports from this area since 2005, and for the last 18 months have been making a feature-length film there.
Max and I drove the team to Huddisford Woods on Friday and showed them three of the places that the big cats have been seen. We did not tell them specifically where to look and the Danish TV crew will, I am sure, corroborate this.
After microscopic analysis, and comparison with known leopard hairs, Lars identified the hairs found in the woods as being from a leopard. The analysis was carried out in front of representatives of the CFZ (including president Colonel John Blashford-Snell), and was filmed both by CFZtv and the aforementioned Danish TV crew.
The video of the examination will be released as soon as we have time to digitise it (probably in a few days). Conspiracy theorists will no doubt claim that we will use this time to somehow doctor the results. This is just not true: the examination was filmed on our Sony PD150 and we have to digitise the DV Tapes which has to be done in real time, and we just have not had the time to do it.
Lars Thomas is not just an old friend of the CFZ, but he has been a core member since 1994. Several other people in the party that found the hairs are also CFZ members. The CFZ have therefore proved that there are big cats living wild in this country. However, in view of recent events we would like these findings corroborated. We have 25-30 of these hairs, and will make them available to anyone who has the resources and expertise to test them, including - if they wish to participate - the Big Cats in Britain research group, who have made no secret of their animosity towards us.
There are two provisos:
1. That the results (including any reports, films or photographs) are immediately put into the public domain
2. That the hairs are returned intact to the CFZ
OK guys it is up to you.
Now all if this looks to be great news and a great find, but again is it me? Instead of dealing with this find in a professional manner, they still find time to mention another big cat organisation. Why? What is the point? Yet again it appears to be another childish taunt, that was neither needed nor expected in this sort of release of information
Why are the CFZ worried what the Big Cats in Britain group say or do. I've yet to find anything in print from the BCIB even mentioning the CFZ in recent years.
Yet here we are, the CFZ boasting they've found evidence, at great pains to ensure that everyone knows that it was CFZ members who found these hairs. Does it really matter who found these hairs. What matters is not the CFZ asking other organisations to do dna sampling for them, but for them to get independent laboratories, (ones without CFZ allegencies),organised and the testing done post haste.
Is this not the remit of the CFZ. Perhaps they are short of funds and cannot afford to do these tests. Perhaps they should ask their donors to stop giving them cash to fix their roof or buying them another pet fish, but to put money towards proper research. Did the Weird Weekend not make any money, are the Danish TV crew not going to help financially.
Strange very strange.
Now you'd be forgiven, reading the claims of the CFZ, that finding hairs is a first, and finding them to be big cat hairs is also a first. Unsurprisingly it's not.
I believe leopard hairs were confirmed by a laboratory in a case several years ago of a big cat trapped in a caravan. I'm also aware of the work a Dorest big cat researcher Jonathon McGowan, who using the same techniques as Dr Lars Thomas, to identify big cat hairs he has found over many years. In fact Mr McGowan presented his findings at a Big Cat Conference a few years ago, where, guess who was in attendance, yes of course our old friend Mr Jonathon Downes. And to top it off, Mr McGowan also presented his findings at another event attended by Mr Downes. And what was that event you may ask? Well surprise surprise it was at a previous years, Weird Weekend, hosted by Mr Downes hinself.
Now you may ask the question, if hairs have been found in the past, and have been presented as evidence at one of Mr Downes Weird Weekend's. Why all the hoohah now? Why all this rigmarole and chest beating? Why all this shouting from the rooftops.
Nothing to do with having a documentry film crew on site, IS IT, Mr Downes?
Post ScriptWell Mr Downes has read this blog post, and decided to attack both myself and Mr Mark Fraser, by the use of selective passages from both this blog post and Mr Frasers comments on his own blog. I urge all readers to read both the CFZ blog and the Big Cats in Britain Blog, to see through the ramblings of an obviously confused man.
This is a sad day in the demise of the CFZ. Rather than concentrate on their findings, they seem obsessed in petty point scoring.
Just one question for the deluded bearded one. When was the last time any Big Cat organisation, when releasing important evidence to media, felt the need to even mention the CFZ.
To all "supporters" of the CFZ. Think twice before handing any money over to these people. You only have to look at their leaders actions today to see how low they can stoop.