It seems that after several decades, the mystery of the Beast of Dartmoor (and possibly the Beasts of Bodmin and Exmoor as well!) may have been finally laid to rest. In the 1970s, Mary Chipperfield (a circus owner) and her family owned Plymouth Zoo, and when it was shut down, she said she would give her five pumas to Mr Ellis Daw at Dartmoor Wildlife Park. However, upon arriving, Mr Daw claims to only have received two of the five pumas. Danny Bamping, founder of the British Big Cats Society, claimed “Mary Chipperfield told Ellis she had broken down on Dartmoor and that somehow three of the pumas had escaped. We think she let them out on the moor.”
The three that had ‘escaped’ were her favorite breeding pair and another young male. Mary’s husband, Roger Cawley, denys this, saying, “We had no dealings with the old Dartmoor Wildlife Park all those years ago and certainly never released pumas or any other wild animals on Dartmoor.”
Mary Chipperfield and her husband were no angels when it came to animals, so the release of big cats in England would not be far-fetched. In 1999, she was fined £7,500 for 12 counts of cruelty involving a young 18 month old chimpanzee named Trudy; the acts of cruelty involved whipping Trudy with a riding crop and forcing her to sleep in a small box. Her husband was fined £1,000 at the same time for whipping a sick elephant around a circus ring.