February 22, 2024

Reports of Lioness Near Berlin Prompt Sprawling Search

The Berlin bear was given a run for its money as the official symbol of the German capital on Thursday. Authorities said a sprawling search led to a “free-roaming lioness” in the area with more than 100 police officers, veterinarians and hunters as well as drones and helicopters trying to capture the animal.

“People are advised to stay at home if possible and not to let their pets outside,” said a statement from the German municipality of Kleinmachnow, in the state of Brandenburg, where the first sighting of the animal was reported. Officials from the town of 20,000 people, about 14 miles from central Berlin, said the lion had been “causing a stir” overnight since it was seen eating a wild boar along the road.

The animal was not arrested as of Thursday evening local time, and the Brandenburg police said in a statement that vets, hunters, helicopters and drones were involved in the search. The search was focused on the districts of Teltow, Kleinmachnow and Stahnsdorf, three small towns along the southwestern border of Berlin, where police had issued warnings about the animal.

“We ask the population in the above-mentioned areas to act with due caution and not go in the nearby wooded areas,” the police statement said. Those who see the animal should “seek shelter immediately” and call the police.

​​​​The police received reports around midnight on Wednesday that they saw a wild animal chasing and eating a wild boar in Kleinmachnow, they said in a statement.

A short, gruesome video of the scene, which was shared with police and circulated on social media on Thursday, appeared to show a large wild cat feeding on a wild boar in a grassy, ​​wooded roadside area. Police said the animal in the video appeared to be a lion, calling that possibility “plausible.”

A search for the animal began immediately, police said, with Berlin and Brandenburg police forces involved and using helicopters. Riot police were on the scene to protect local residents.

Officials from the town of Kleinmachnow said their goal was to tranquilize and capture the animal, rather than kill it. But hunters were on standby in case the animal threatened any life.

After the initial sighting and video, the police themselves saw the animal, a police spokesman in Brandenburg told the Associated Press. The mayor of Kleinmachnow and the police did not immediately respond to questions about the sightings. Other sightings reported by residents could not be confirmed, officials said.

Authorities said the animal was most likely in the wooded areas of Brandenburg.

It was not clear where the lion came from, as lions are not originally from Germany. Although there are zoos, animal shelters and circuses in the area, police said no one has reported a lion missing.

Online commenters expressed doubt that the animal in the video was a lion, but police said it probably was.

Others had fun with the chaos, and memes in abundance: the Twitter page of Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national rail operator, tweeted a helpful reminder that while house cats and small pets did not need their own tickets, larger pets did need their own train passes, “except for companion lions”.

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