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Panther Johnny

On this page you will find information about Panther Johnny, a black leopard that is currently strolling around in the area of the German federal state of Rheinland-Pfalz near the border to France and Luxembourg. You will find facts, news entries and commentaries.
Please keep in mind that a panther can be either a black leopard or a black jaguar. In this case we mean the black leopard.

Where does the panther come from?

Apparently the panther broke out of a small private zoo in the town of Amnéville (Northern France) in August 2009. Since then he has been seen several times in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. By now, he has been living in the border area of Germany and Belgium for more than one year and there haven't been any problems so far.

Does the panther pose a hazard?

Generally leopards do not pose a high hazard to humans as long as they are left alone. Leopards avoid contact with humans just like most other animals. Some pedestrians that have already seen Johnny explained that the animal fled when it realized them.
As said before, Johnny has already been living in the wild for more than a year now and nothing particular happened: He neither killed a single farm animal nor a human so far. Nevertheless he is now allowed to be shot.
Wolfram Graf-Ludwig, head of the zoo of Aachen said: "The big cat will feed upon wild animals. It only might attack humans when it is injured"

Johnny is fair game

Johnny is now fair game again. Afore the panther has already been allowed to be shot in autumn 2009 as attempts to catch it failed. It was tried to allure the animal with a leopard cub and cadavers but without any success. There was a battue but fortunately the hunters could not find Johnny.
Now as it's getting colder and the winter is near Johnny will stay near the urban areas because it's warmer there. Probably he has partly nourished upon a garbage dump in the last winter.
Because gossip papers incite panic instead of telling the residents how to behave when facing the panther, many people are scared although there is no particular reason for that. This fear and the trophy-madness of the hunters are obviously enough reasons to kill an animal that belongs to an endangered species.
As said before, the leopard will feed upon wild animals as long as it is healthy enough. If a hunter wants to shoot the animal but only injures it, it will look for easy prey and which species is easier to kill than a human? We are not fast enough to escape and we are not strong enough to fight back. That's the main reason why we should leave Johnny alone: A battue will only cause more problems. Furthermore, there are many countries where predators are more common than in Germany. In those parts of the world, people live in peace with wildlife and there are hardly any accidents. Of course there are some but they are rare and usually caused by misbehaving humans who are not aware of the instincts and strength of wild animals.

Gossip media incites panic

Several media agencies exaggerate or invent facts in order to attract readers. Unfortunately, this strategy is working because many people are impressed by scare headlines. The best example for German gossip media is probably the "Bild-Zeitung". It's the most popular newspaper in Germany and read by more than 12 million people. Now let's have a look what the "journalists" have written about the case Johnny: "Panther Alarm in Germany: The black silhouette is eerily roaming the forests. The beefy animal kills sheep, scares the residents."
However, the people who have already encountered the panther claimed that they hadn't been afraid at all when facing the black leopard.
Apart from this exaggeration, the "Bild-Zeitung" only mentions one killed sheep in the same article. Moreover, there are even doubts if the leopard is to blame. Johnny is often called a beast although this term should actually refer to the people who want to shoot him. Obviously certain media agencies try everything to increase readership and lie to the consumers shamelessly.
Nonetheless also some respectable press agencies have used inappropriate terms for Johnny but at least they didn't exaggerate as much as others.

The nonsensical points justifying the hunt

or: The hunters' propaganda
In this paragraph I will disprove the points justifying the hunt.

Anesthesia only works after seven minutes

Anesthesia doesn't work until seven minutes have passed. During this period, hunters say, the panther could either escape and hide or attack. This danger could be avoided if the authorities sent a group of biologists to stun the panther. Leopards are very shy animals and they normally escape if there is a human around. If the leopard notices a group of humans, the risk of an attack is very low. Furthermore, the anesthesia tires the animal out, so after each second, an attack gets more unlikely. A further possibility is to drive the panther onto a tree where it can be easily stunned. According to the animal trainer Hermann Locke, this would be an effective method.

The nonsensical statement of a biologist

The biologist Axel Schmidt once said: "If you consider what a pitbull can do to children, we don't want to be responsible if this panther roams urban areas. The hunters should not hesitate and shoot."
To be honest, it makes me sad to see that this statement was made by a biologist. This reasoning is absolute nonsense because you can't compare a trained animal to a wild animal and to be more precise you can't compare a peaceful panther to a dog that was educated by humans. Therefore, the dog owners are to blame when their pets behave aggressively. Furthermore, aggressive behavior can be inherited from previous generations. The leopards' genes have never been manipulated by humans. They are still shy animals as they have always been trying to avoid contact with humans. That's why Panther Johnny has been living in the border area of Germany and Belgium without attacking a single human or farm animal.
Just like the point before this statement is just a kind of propaganda trying to justify the battue. In 2006 similar statements of communities and politicians caused the death of Bruno, the bear (also known as JJ1).

Points of the newspaper "Die Welt"

The online newspaper "Welt online" claims that zoo animals are used to humans and don't avoid urban areas. Furthermore, they assert that attacks of wild animals are not rare in populous regions.
At first this point seems reasonable and logical. Nevertheless, there is still a significant difference between leopards living in the wilderness and leopards living behind bars: Nearly all big cats require a big territory, the leopards are no exception. Because the density of population is growing in most parts of the world, the predators have to defend their territory against humans. This is a just a natural behavior and has nothing to do with the life in a zoo.
However, the black leopard Johnny has obviously found a woodland where he can live with hardly any interference: There are no cities and hardly any humans around. That's why you can't compare a leopard living in between residential areas to a leopard roaming the forest all on its own. Obviously Johnny likes his new habitat because he has never harmed anybody. Moreover, the leopard has not been seen for quite a long time, for the whole summer to be precise. That's another evidence for the point mentioned before: The animal doesn't have to fight with humans because until now, they are no (food) competitors for him. In wintertime, Johnny will stay closer to the residential areas because it's warmer there and that's why he will also be seen more often. Nevertheless, the leopard does not pose a hazard to the residents because as soon as Johnny has realized humans he has always fled (according to eyewitnesses).
The second pronouncement from "Welt online" seems more reasonable but nevertheless it's not quite true: Although animals living in zoos are used to humans, they never consider them as prey. This behavior can be easily explained: Normally people come very close to zoo animals. A prey animal would panic, try to flee and make a loud noise. This is something all animals do if they are in danger: They want to increase their physical performance. Humans observing animals don't fit this pattern. As mentioned before, Johnny hasn't been seen for quite a long time thus he is trying to avoid contact with humans unlike "Welt online" predicted. In addition, he has never considered people as enemies. This could be a positive effect of his life in the zoo where he had to share his territory with the visitors.
Now you'll maybe wonder how animal attacks can occur in zoos when zoo animals are used to humans and don't consider them as prey. The explanation is quite simple actually: If a predator escapes, there will be a mass panic of course. That means in effect that the people do now behave like prey animals: They are scared, they are loud, they try to run away and turn their back to the animal. As a consequence, the predator's instincts tell him to chase the people and now it will try to kill. Humans don't have a chance against most predators and definitely not against big cats. We are not strong enough to fight back and we are not fast enough to run away, we even don't even know how to behave in case of emergency.
All the points trying to justify the hunt for the Johnny can be disproved by the panther's behavior. Whether some people lie wittingly or are just uninformed, we can't tell but please keep the facts in mind: The leopard does not pose a serious hazard to the residents.
Letzte Bearbeitung: 21:18, 01 Mar 2011 - Geo

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