A police operation involving helicopters and hundreds of officers was launched in Berlin overnight to find an animal—believed to be an escaped lion—which had still not been found as of Thursday morning.
Authorities advised residents on the southwestern edge of the German capital to stay indoors and to lock up their pets while the hunt for the big cat continued. “We are currently working on the assumption that the animal is a lioness,” a Brandenburg Police spokesperson told Reuters.
Early Thursday, the agency warned locals in the towns of Kleinmachnow, Teltow, and Stahnsdorf to remain inside their homes due to the threat posed by “an escaped wild animal.”
Hours later, law enforcement issued an update to say the animal “has NOT been found yet” and reiterated the advice to stay indoors. The public was also urged to call an emergency line if they saw the beast.
Traders were also told not to set up their stalls at a weekly town hall market in Kleinmachnow, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, with the local council confirming that child daycare centers would open as normal, but the kids wouldn’t be allowed into outdoor play areas.
The outlet also said a local filmed the lioness eating a wild animal at around midnight, but the police had since lost track of it. Authorities reportedly assume that the predator is sleeping somewhere in a wooded area.
“That’s not a normal cat,” a police spokesperson told local media. “If a lioness comes to Germany, it has to be documented.”
Exactly where the lion escaped from in the first place remains unclear. “We simply do not know where it comes from,” the spokesperson added. Initial online reports suggested it may have escaped from a circus, but authorities say they’ve checked with circuses as well as zoos, animal parks, and animal sanctuaries, and none of them are missing a lion.
Amid the search, several hunters armed with tranquilizer guns have been sent to Stahnsdorf and Kleinmachnow, the Bild tabloid reports. Veterinarians have also been put on duty in the hunt, with police hoping to catch the cat through non-lethal means.
A spokeswoman for the Potsdam-Mittelmark district—where the search is taking place—said that may not be possible. “That will be decided depending on the situation,” she told Bild.