A “loose, dangerous animal,” suspected to be an escaped big cat, was reportedly found in a region of Potsdam on the outskirts of the German capital on Thursday, police said.
Authorities are using helicopters to track what they believe is a female lion and are calling on residents to stay indoors, public broadcaster rbb reported.
According to a German tabloid IMAGEsecurity forces are also using armored vehicles, drones and infrared cameras in the search.
According to the police, veterinarians and hunters are also involved in the operation to find the animal.
A police spokesman said drones were used where possible to avoid the usual search method of combing forest areas on foot.
On Thursday evening, a police spokesman said 220 officers were searching near where the animal was last seen in wooded areas near the municipalities of Kleinmachnow, Teltow and Stahnsdorf in the southern part of Berlin.
The search is expected to continue through the night with the help of night vision devices, the spokesman said.
“We will continue to work until the animal is found,” added the spokesperson.
Experts pondered where the animal came from in Berlin
“It is clear that lions cannot fall from the sky, not in Germany, at least,” said Professor Heribert Hofer, director of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin.
Although it is illegal to keep big cats in Berlin, it is possible in the neighboring state of Brandenburg, Hofer told DW.
The owner must have an expert certificate, keep an adequate private enclosure, and receive an official veterinary check from the state.
“The costs of keeping big cats properly are prohibitive,” Hofer said. “It’s a rich man’s hobby, a very rich man,” he said.
Hofer added that the lion can come from one of four places: a zoo, a circus, a legal private enclosure, or an illegal private enclosure.
“This is the big question, which also makes it difficult to find it, because we don’t know: Is it a cat raised by humans in close contact with humans? Is it a stray cat, or is it a truly wild animal that prefers not to see people?” he said.
If anyone comes in contact with the animal, Hofer said it’s important to stay calm.
“First of all, you don’t run screaming. You stop and stand, and you let the animal look at you to see what you’re doing,” he said.
“And then you look at the animal to see what it’s doing. And then it takes control of the situation. And in 99 out of 100 cases, they just go away.”
How was the suspected lion first spotted?
Earlier, residents were reported to have received messages through warning apps. Among other things, they are asked not to walk in the woods and seek shelter in their houses or cars if they see the animal.
According to the police, they received information about the presence of the animal from witnesses who took it to attack and kill the wild boar.
They said they didn’t know where the animal came from, that zoos, circuses and animal shelters had all checked and said they had never lost a lion.
“We have put a lot of force on the site to protect the population,” a police spokesman said.
A spokesman for the municipality of Kleinmachnow said that kindergarten children were not allowed in the surrounding gardens and that market vendors were advised not to set up stalls for the time being.
“This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day,” he said.
tj/sms/wmr (dpa, rbb, AFP)
While you’re here: Every Tuesday, DW editors gather what’s happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.