Kleinmachnow: big cat alarm: police continue search

Seen and gone again: A free-roaming big cat - presumably a lioness - is said to have been sighted in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Kleinmachnow: big cat alarm: police continue search

Seen and gone again: A free-roaming big cat - presumably a lioness - is said to have been sighted in Berlin and Brandenburg. Residential areas have been cordoned off, people should stay at home. Hundreds of police officers were on duty, supported by hunters and veterinarians - but the animal could not be caught until late in the evening. Where is it?

The first warning reached the population south of Berlin on Thursday night: A "free-running dangerous wild animal" is said to have been sighted in the municipality of Kleinmachnow in Brandenburg. A few seconds of cell phone video from a witness shows the animal sneaking around between bushes and trees. The investigating authorities consider the video to be genuine. Police officers also saw the big cat "secured" during the night, said a spokeswoman for the authorities.

More than 100 police officers on duty

There was another possible sighting in the afternoon in the Berlin city area, near the southern border with Brandenburg. Due to the clues, police officers searched in Zehlendorf in the area of ​​the forest cemetery in the afternoon - but the trail led nowhere. "There were no indications or traces that the animal was actually there," the police said on Twitter.

But in the evening the animal is said to have appeared again in this area. The Berlin police are therefore concentrating their search on the area - even at night. Around 220 police officers were on duty there until the evening, said a police spokeswoman. During the night, about 70 forces should continue to look out. The city hunters and veterinarians are involved in the search. Night vision goggles and a night vision drone should be used. Police reported that "lion's roar" was also heard.

At the same time, the police in Brandenburg continued their search at night. More than 100 police officers are on duty, it said. They searched for the suspected lioness using drones, helicopters and thermal imaging cameras, assisted by veterinarians and hunters and firefighters. A police spokesman said in the evening that several groups were out at night. "We follow every tip," he emphasized.

is it a lioness

At first, however, there was no trace of the animal. No blood, feces, or paw prints indicated his presence in the area. From the point of view of the veterinarian Achim Gruber from the Free University of Berlin, doubts remain as to whether it is really a lioness. "I think it's possible that it's a lioness, but I'm not convinced," he said in the evening in the RBB special. He bet on the hunting dogs that were looking for the animal. If they don't find any traces, this is "a strong piece of the puzzle" against the hypothesis that you are dealing with a lioness.

Should it actually be a lioness, the question remains: where does she come from? At least not from the zoos, animal parks and circuses in this region, as the police found out. Nobody missed a big cat there. Private owners are not known in Kleinmachnow, Mayor Michael Grubert (SPD) said at a press conference on Thursday. He spoke of a "serious situation".

The private keeping of wild animals is a state matter in Germany. In Berlin it is forbidden, in Brandenburg there is no special regulation apart from the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. Findings about an illegal attitude were initially not known. According to the State Environment Agency, 23 lions are registered in Brandenburg. These are three circus companies, two zoos and a private attitude.

Important advice for residents

The quiet town of Kleinmachnow, which borders directly on Berlin, was caught cold by the search. "If I hadn't been called early this morning at 6 a.m. by a person from the fire department who I knew wouldn't tell me a story at 6 a.m. (...), I would have thought it was a joke at first," said Grubert.

In Kleinmachnow, helicopters were already in action during the night. According to a dpa reporter, everything in the community seemed completely normal on Thursday morning. There was hardly any sign of the search for a dangerous predator. Cyclists were out and about, dog walkers, people on their way to work or to go shopping.

The community tried to let everyday life run its course without taking too many risks. So Kleinmachnow left the kindergartens open, but asked that the children stay on the premises. The weekly market has been reduced. A café in the center should keep the doors closed. What indicated the search for a lioness was the police, some of which were present.

A wildlife expert advised residents not to act suddenly if they encountered the suspected lioness. "The most important thing is that the animals feel that they are in control of the situation," said Heribert Hofer, director of the dpa's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. A surprise effect must be avoided. "This is a situation where she experiences a loss of control of the situation." This could result in reactions because the animal feels endangered and might therefore defend itself.

The fate of the animal is still unknown

The warning from the Federal Office also includes the south of Berlin, such as Steglitz, Marienfelde and Neukölln. The city of Potsdam also called on its residents to be vigilant: "Open your eyes! Potsdam is not far away," said the city on Twitter.

According to estimates by experts from the zoo and animal park in Berlin, a lioness would be perfectly fine in a local forest during the summer months. In a terrain unknown to her, it can be assumed that she will withdraw into the undergrowth and not actively seek contact with people, the facilities said.

"The risk of a wild animal attacking a human directly in an open area such as a forest, park or field is also lower than when it feels cornered and threatened in a residential area."

The fate of the animal is still unclear should it be found. A spokeswoman for the district of Potsdam-Mittelmark said there were a veterinarian and two hunters with weapons on site. When the animal is found, a decision is made as to whether to use anesthetic or shoot it. Kleinmachnow's mayor relied on capture and stunning if necessary.

The vet describes possible problems

If an animal should be caught in the wild, tele-injection with an anesthetic gun is used, said May Hokan from the environmental foundation World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) of the dpa in Berlin. Zoo veterinarians, who can deal well with such situations even under stress, could do this best.

The vet described possible problems: "When you meet a lion like that, it doesn't fall over straight away and fall asleep. There is a stressful phase, it has this arrow in its butt, it will start running and make a fuss." This takes a few minutes, also depending on the type of anesthetic. "We then have a difficult phase before the animal falls asleep and the animal can be approached."

Theoretically it would also be possible to shoot it down. "Depending on how the situation is likely to be assessed by the veterinarian and the police, the animal will also be shot in such situations. Of course, there must be certainty that there are no people around. It's not that easy either," said the veterinarian.