Berlin — Police in Berlin began a large-scale search Wednesday evening for a wild animal believed to be on the loose in the German capital. It's thought to be a lioness. The animal was last seen on the southern outskirts of the city, and police were searching a forest area there 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 imagine. Two men saw an animal running after another," 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 officers confirmed that it is probably a lioness".
Helicopters with thermal imaging cameras were taking part in the search for the animal. Veterinarians and hunters were also called in.
"There have been various sightings, so that we actually assume at the moment that a lioness runs freely through Teltow, Stahnsdorf and Kleinmachnow or the adjacent area of the federal capital," Keip said.
Police said Thursday that they suspected the lioness was in a small forest area and probably resting, but after another reported sighting in the woods, officers came to a tennis club nearby in the suburb of Wannsee and warned people there to remain indoors. Later Thursday afternoon there was another reported sighting in Berlin-Zehlendorf, suggesting the animal could be moving north toward central Berlin, though it was still in the outer districts.
It was unclear where the animal might have come from.
"Neither zoos nor circuses are missing such an animal," the police spokesman told reporters. There was also no immediate evidence that a private household in the area had been keeping a lion as a pet.
There is no law prohibiting the ownership of wild animals as pets in Germany, and people can theoretically keep any animal, including lions. Only the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species regulates the keeping of animals on a national level in the country. Under that pact, keeping animals with protected status requires specific permissions from national authorities.
If the animal is found, authorities will have to decide whether to sedate or kill it.
Local police advised residents not to leave their homes and not to keep pets outdoors.
The Kleinmachnow municipality said daycare 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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