Lion on the loose: Reports trigger alert in Berlin

Police are hunting for a lioness on the outskirts of Berlin, after members of the public reported seeing a wild animal prowling near their homes. 

The alarm was raised around midnight on Thursday after passers-by phoned police in Brandenburg to report they had seen “an animal chasing another”, according to police spokesman Daniel Keip. 

“One was a wild boar and the other was obviously a lioness,” he said. “Both men also recorded a video on their mobile phones and experienced police officers confirmed it was probably a lioness.” 

Others have expressed scepticism towards the alert, with a local circus director saying he would “eat his hat” if it was a lion. 

Those living in the German capital’s southwestern districts were first asked by officers not to leave their homes, though the warning zone was later extended to peripheral municipalities between Berlin and Potsdam.

“The wild animal that escaped has not yet been found! Please do not leave your homes,” the Brandenburg police wrote on Twitter.

A large number of police have been scrambled in the search, along with vets and two hunters. Two helicopters and drones are assisting their efforts. 

Locals have been urged not to let their pets out, with the mayor of Kleinmachow – one of the municipalities concerned – advising against “walks in the forest and jogging”.

Thorsten Thaddey, a resident of the 20,000-person town, told AFP he was arrested during his morning jog. 

“I must say that I was a bit panicked,” he said. “It’s an animal of a different calibre than a normal dog.” 

“I’m going home.” 

Another resident, Lutz Peters, feared for his “two dachshunds”, which he described as “ideal food for a lion.” 

The origin of the possible lioness on the run remains unknown. 

“No animal park, zoo and circus had reported any disappearances,” according to Brandenburg police spokesman Daniel Keip.

In an interview with the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, circus director Michel Roga said he had been woken up at 2:00 a.m. by police to see if he was missing a feline. 

He expressed doubts about this wild animal alert.

“No circus in the whole of Germany has a lion or a tiger anymore,” he told the German newspaper.

After seeing the video shown by the police, Rogall said: “If that’s a lion, I’m eating my hat off. The animal is far too slender and too small.”

He believed it could instead be a Caucasian Shepherd, a large dog.

“I have a similar dog at home, but he’s still there,” he said.

Two weeks ago, a serval wild cat, held by someone who had not declared it to the authorities, escaped in Bad Kreuznach, near Frankfurt. 

It is caused panic in the local area, said the German association for animal protection, Vier Pfoten.

Other fugitive felines have hit the headlines in Europe before. 

A panther, stolen from the Maubeuge Zoo in September 2019, escaped through the roof of a building in Armentières (northern France) before being captured by firefighters.

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