Berlin — Police in Berlin began a large-scale search Wednesday afternoon for a wild animal believed to be on the loose in the German capital. It is thought to be a lion. The animal was last seen on the southern edge of the city, where police were searching a forested area as emergency workers scoured the ground from helicopters and drones.
Berlin police said they learned about the wild animal from witnesses.
“Around midnight, the message came in, which we all could not have imagined. Two men saw an animal running after each other,” police spokesman Daniel Kiep told local media. “One was a wild boar and the other was apparently a wild cat, a lioness. The two men also recorded a video and even experienced police confirmed that it was probably a lioness”.
Helicopters with thermal imaging cameras were taking part in the search for the animal. Vets and hunters were also called in.
“There have been various sightings, so let’s assume for now that a lion is running freely through Teltow, Stahnsdorf and Kleinmachnow or the area near the federal capital,” said Keip.
Police said Thursday they suspected the lion was in a small forest area and was likely resting, but after he reported another sighting in the woods, officers came to a nearby tennis club and warned people to stay inside.
It was not clear where the animal came from.
“Such an animal is not missing from juries or circuses,” the police spokesman told reporters. There was also no immediate evidence that a private family in the area was keeping a lion as a pet.
There is no law that prohibits the ownership of wild animals as pets in Germany, and in theory people can keep any animal, including lions. Only the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species regulates the keeping of animals at a national level in the country. Under that agreement, animals with protected status require specific permits from national authorities.
If the animal is found, the authorities will have to decide whether to strangle or kill it.
Local police advised residents not to leave their homes and not to keep pets outside.
The municipality of Kleinmachnow said day care centers were staying open but children were not being allowed outside. Merchants at the weekly market in the town were advised not to set up their stalls.
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