German police abandon search for ‘lion’ after no evidence of big cat found - but residents urged to remain ‘cautious’

21 July 2023, 14:43 | Updated: 21 July 2023, 14:59

No we haven't got your lion: German police on the lookout for the mystery beast
No we haven't got your lion: German police on the lookout for the mystery beast. Picture: Social Media/Alamy

By Asher McShane

Furious German police have abandoned search efforts for a lioness on the loose, saying that no evidence had been found of a big cat roaming the outskirts of Berlin.

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Up to 220 police officers, drones and helicopters with thermal imaging cameras were set to task trying to find the animal, after an alarming video emerged online appearing to show a big cat.

But it turned out to be a wild goose chase, with fuming police union bosses blasting the search as a waste of time as officers were pulled back onto normal duties this afternoon.

Heiko Teggatz, deputy head of the German Police Union (DPolG), told Bild:”This mission is undoubtedly the most expensive safari that has ever existed in Germany's forests!”

The policing and search operation is believed to have cost 'several hundred thousand euros'
The policing and search operation is believed to have cost 'several hundred thousand euros'. Picture: Alamy

He said he believed the operation would have cost several hundred thousand euros.

The money would have been "better invested in fighting crime," he added, calling for police to investigate a public order offence.

Forensic experts dismissed footage of the ‘lion’ as a wild boar due to the animal’s size and posture.

Berlin police issued a statement this afternoon: “Despite an intensive search using the latest technology and search dogs, no reliable indications of the actual presence of a big cat have been found in the last 24 hours. Our measures have been discontinued.”

Regional officials said in a statement online thanking everyone for the search effort and “asked citizens to continue to be cautious, even if no solid clues could be found.”

Police had been tracking a suspected big cat after footage emerged of what was claimed to be a lioness in the woods to the southwest of the capital.

The mayor of Kleinmachnow, Michael Grubert, said nobody has found "a single indication of any lion or wild animal, other than wild boar".

"It's like playing the lottery. You can't keep playing, thinking you'll win - but no, as is, there's no indication it's a lion," he said, adding he had always been sceptical.

But the bizarre tale grew stranger when hours before, the son of the boss of a German crime family pleaded for a possible missing lioness to be returned safely "before some idiot shoots her".

The animal was believed to be on the loose on the southern edge of Berlin, where locals were told to stay indoors and make sure their pets aren't outside.

Police and animal experts on the search for the 'lion'
Police and animal experts on the search for the 'lion'. Picture: Alamy

Search efforts were set to be ramped up on Friday.

Professional animal trackers were due to be deployed as residents around Berlin were sent emergency alerts to their phones warning of a “big cat on the loose.”

This morning, 120 extra search personnel were being deployed.

Overnight citizens played a prank by playing a lion’s roar loudly throughout the night.

No zoos, animal parks or circuses in the area reporting they had a lion missing, though.

A huge search operation is under way after a social media sighting of a lion
A huge search operation is under way after a social media sighting of a lion. Picture: Social Media

There are also no known privately-owned lions in the vicinity, according to the mayor of Kleinmachnow, a town of 20,000 inhabitants in Brandenburg where the sighting took place.

Rainer Altenkamp, first chairman of the Berlin Nature Conservation Union (NABU), had already poured cold water on the idea of it being a big cat.

"Even the short, hanging tail with a tassel that is about ten centimetres long and loosely hairy rules out a lioness," he said.

"The other recognisable features, for example the round back and the elongated head, fit very well with a wild boar and speak against a predator.”

Mr Grubert previously said: "We found a fecal sample and a hair sample, also in the area that was important to us. These were sent to the Leibnitz Institute, we are expecting the results tomorrow."

Search efforts continued overnight, with police patrolling the streets in emergency vehicles.

Police had been searching forest in the area of Nikolassee, south west of Berlin.

Residents were told to avoid southern forest areas of Berlin beyond the city limits.


Animal experts and police officers stand in a wooded area in Berlin's Zehlendorf district, Germany
Animal experts and police officers stand in a wooded area in Berlin's Zehlendorf district, Germany. Picture: Alamy

Police were alerted to the animal in Kleinmachnow, just outside Berlin's city limits, at about midnight on Tuesday by people reporting seeing a big cat chasing a wild boar.

Police believed a video provided by callers was authentic.

The lioness is believed to be on the loose in an area south west of Berlin
The lioness is believed to be on the loose in an area south west of Berlin. Picture: Google

Helicopters and 30 police cars took part in the search, which continued on Thursday afternoon.

A vet and two hunters were also involved and a search with two drones and infrared cameras was underway in an area where the animal was spotted.

Police with submachine guns patrol woodland near Berlin
Police with submachine guns patrol woodland near Berlin. Picture: Alamy

People in Kleinmachnow, a town of about 20,000 in a flat, wooded area on the boundary between Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, were advised to stay indoors if possible - and in any case to refrain from walks and jogs in the woods and to take dogs - at most - for short walks on a lead.

Local authorities left children's nurseries open, though they were asked not to let children outside, and scaled back the town's weekly market.

Police tell a cyclist to not travel through a wooded area where the lion may be on the prowl
Police tell a cyclist to not travel through a wooded area where the lion may be on the prowl. Picture: Alamy

The warning was extended to neighbouring southern areas of Berlin and an alert was sent on an official warning app.

On Thursday afternoon, police in the capital tweeted to say there had been a "possible sighting" of the animal just inside the city limits.

"The primary aim, if at all possible, is to capture the animal, if necessary with an anaesthetic," Kleinmachnow mayor Michael Grubert said.

Police issued an amber alert for the possibility of a lion encounter in this area south of Berlin
Police issued an amber alert for the possibility of a lion encounter in this area south of Berlin. Picture: Berlin police

"Other measures will only be taken on a case-by-case basis by police officers on the ground if their own lives or those of others are endangered."

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