An animatronic leopard is spotted in London's Trafalgar Square, in a bid to highlight the plight of the species. Amy Pollock reports.
This is not your average Big Cat sighting. Robotic leopard Lily growls and moves very realistically in the urban jungle of London's Trafalgar Square. She's in town to highlight the plight of big cats around the world as human habitats encroach on their territory. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE BIG CAT SANCTUARY, GILES CLARK, SAYING: "What we are seeing is as habitat across the world continues to disappear, and more pressure is being put on species of wildlife including all of the cats, we're seeing more incidents of human wildlife conflict on a daily basis." According to National Geographic's Big Cat Initiative, leopards are now found in only 25 percent of their historic range. This means the felines are seen on city streets far more often. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANIMATRONIC LEOPARD'S DESIGNER, JOHN NOLAN, SAYING: "These animals are roaming the streets in places like Mumbai, 'cause we're taking up to 90 percent of their natural habitat." The studio behind Lily the leopard took just five weeks to create the 1.3 metre-long, 50 kg cat. Her more than 40 moving parts are controlled by three remote operators. And her hyper-realistic appearance is down to copying the spots from an image of a leopard-skin rug exactly. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANIMATRONIC LEOPARD'S DESIGNER, JOHN NOLAN, SAYING: "Every individual spot has been placed perfectly through the use of a stretchy stencil and airbrushed through." Real leopards are found across Africa and Asia and are classified as vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE BIG CAT SANCTUARY, GILES CLARK, SAYING: "It's a bit disconcerting when you've got your face up against hers and her eyes are watching you and she's blinking, so she's fairly real. Put it this way I wouldn't want to bump into her in a dark alley." Conservationists hope putting this animatronic cat among the pigeons will raise awareness of the fragility of leopard habitats.