Armed police surround Berlin forest where lioness is feared to roam

Armed police surround Berlin forest where lioness is feared to roam

July 21, 2023

Armed police in anti-terror vehicles surround Berlin forest where lioness is feared to be roaming but suspend hunt until first light – as force insists ‘this isn’t like reports of a crocodile in a lake that turns out to be a big duck, this is totally real’

  • Hunters and helicopters have been looking for the lioness in southern Berlin

German police have surrounded an area of forest in southern Berlin where an escaped lioness is feared to be hiding as they suspended the search overnight.

Hundreds of officers were enlisted in the hunt for the feline yesterday, deploying commandos, drone fleets, helicopters and a 300-horsepower armoured vehicle known as ‘The Survivor’.

The Survivor is typically used in counter-terror operations, giving a sign of how seriously German Police are treating the mission to track down the big cat.

The hunt was launched in the early hours of yesterday in the district of Kleinmachnow after residents spotted what appeared to be a lioness, The Times reports.

German tabloid Bild has used geo-software to pinpoint the spot where the cat was reported to have been seen and claimed it was just 30-metres away from a residential property.

Police cars drive out of the forest where the predatory cat is supposed to be

Panzers! German police use a Survivor ‘panzerwagen’, an armoured vehicle, amid a search for a rogue lioness in the south of Berlin, on July 20, 2023

German police spokesman Daniel Keip said: In the summer, you often hear reports of crocodiles in swimming lakes and then it turns out all it was, was a big duck. In this case, it’s obviously totally real. 

‘We’re dealing with a lioness that’s roaming freely through Teltow, Stahnsdorf and Kleinmachnow.’

Two firemen also alleged they had spotted the lioness yesterday afternoon, according to police.

Joggers were barred from entering the woodland by officers, as the search appeared to be ‘heating up’ in the evening with one officer screaming ‘get out of the wood, quickly’ to runners.

Police have been joined by professional hunters and vets, armed with tranquilising guns and pistols, in an attempt to safely capture the lioness – believed to be a private pet.

No zoos have reported a missing lioness, leading to questions about where the animal could have came from.

Video on Twitter appeared to show a lioness wandering through foliage in Kleinmachnow

Hunters and vets were reportedly helping track down the animal in Germany

Police were first alerted early yesterday by members of the public who recorded what appeared to be a wild boar and a lion chasing each other.

‘Even experienced officers had to conclude that it was probably a lioness,’ a police spokesperson told local broadcaster RBB.

Local authorities were seen driving armoured vehicles – ‘panzerwagens’ – through residential areas as a helicopter with thermal imaging circles overhead.

Kleinmachnow mayor Michael Grubert said it was not the time ‘to go jogging in the woods’.

A police spokesperson was forced to admit: ‘We don’t know where it came from.’ 

Since no zoos or circuses have reported a missing lioness, police believe she must be an escaped pet. 

Despite a massive operation involving over 100 police officers as well as drones, helicopters and thermal-imaging cameras, there was still no sign of the animal by Thursday afternoon.

A woman carries a tranquilizer gun as members from the veterinary office search for the lioness

Animal experts and police officers stand in a wooded area in Berlin’s Zehlendorf district

Police vans search close to a residential area after reports that a lioness was on the loose, in Zehlendorf, Berlin

A police vehicle passes as the search continues after police warned the public that a suspected lioness was on the loose

Spezialeinsatzkommandos drive a 15-ton Survivor into the forest near Stahnsdorf, July 20 

Police are preventing locals from entering the nearby forest, where they suspect the feline may have gone into hiding

Over 300 police officers have been involved in the manhunt today, with 200 set to continue the search overnight

Mayor Grubert yesterday urged residents to keep heeding police advice ‘not to leave the house if possible’, and to keep pets indoors.

Have you seen the lion, or do you have any local information? 

Contact [email protected] 

The creature was believed not to have strayed far from the Kleinmachnow area where it was first seen, Grubert said.

Hunters and veterinarians were also taking part in the search, as were officers from the neighbouring Berlin police force.

Despite numerous tips from citizens, none of the information had led to the animal’s whereabouts so far, police added.

Residents in the area were advised ‘to act with appropriate caution and to avoid the adjacent forests’.

It remains unclear where the feline could have come from.

No zoos or circuses have reported any missing big cats, officials said.

Michel Rogall, a circus director in the neighbouring suburb of Teltow who was woken up by police at 2am yesterday, said that the animal might not be a lion at all.

‘If it’s a lion, I’ll eat my broom,’ he told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

The Kleinmachnow municipality decided to keep daycare centres open, but asked staff not to venture out with children.

Traders at a local market were asked not to set up their stalls.

A Police helicopter takes part in the search for an a wild animal on the loose, reportedly a lioness in Stahnsdorf, south-west of Berlin on July 20, 2023

The lioness was spotted in the night walking through the undergrowth near Kleinmachnow.

Brandenburg Police wrote on Twitter yesterday at 2:15am: ‘Please avoid leaving the house due to an escaped wild animal in the Kleinmachnow, Teltow & Stahnsdorf (PM) area and also bring your pets into the house. 

‘Our colleagues are on site and checking the situation.’

They sent an update four hours later, at 6:23am: ‘The escaping wild animal has NOT been found yet! We still ask you not to leave the house. If you see the animal, please call the emergency number 110!’ 

Thorsten Thaddey was out for a morning jog in Kleinmachnow when he was stopped by police, who told him a wild animal might be roaming the nearby forest.

‘I have to be honest, I panicked a bit. Because it’s a different calibre compared to a normal dog or another pet that has run away,’ he told AFP. ‘So I’m going to run home now.’

Once the animal is found, it will likely be sedated with a tranquiliser and taken to an animal shelter, the mayor said.

Anyone crossing paths with the feline should ‘seek safety immediately and call the police,’ Brandenburg police said.

Police officers take part in the search for a wild animal on the loose, reportedly a lioness in Stahnsdorf, south-west of Berlin on July 20, 2023

A man holds a sniffer dog as Berlin police warned the public a suspected lioness was on the loose, in Kleinmachnow, near Berlin, Germany July 20, 2023

Animal rights groups criticised successive governments for failing to ban the practice of keeping wild animals as pets.

‘Over the past two decades there have been repeated cases of big escaping from homes and circuses,’ said Peter Hoeffken of rights group PETA. ‘Despite countless warnings, politicians have failed to ban the keeping of exotic wildlife.’

Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS told MailOnline the situation highlights a more widespread issue of privately keeping big cats across the globe.

Vanessa Amoroso, Head of the Wild Animals in Trade unit at FOUR PAWS, said: ‘The appearance of a supposed lioness roaming the streets of Berlin raises concerns for both the public’s safety and the welfare of the animal. 

‘It is very likely that the animal, who must be under great stress currently, is privately owned since there have been no reports from zoos or circuses about a missing animal.

‘This incident highlights the need for Germany to implement nationwide regulations governing the private keeping and trade of exotic animal species. Wild animals simply are not suited for private ownership, which is why political action is urgently needed. 

Police patrol during a search for a escaped lion near the village of Kleinmachnow in the south of in Berlin, Germany, 20 July 2023

‘As the German Animal Welfare Act undergoes revision, there is a unique opportunity to establish a positive list that would regulate the trade and private keeping of exotic pets across the nation.’

They suggested that other EU member states also ‘lack an accurate overview of the captive-bred big cat population of Europe’, potentially posing a danger to the public.

Mr Grubert said there was no information on one being privately owned in the area, and added he didn’t know whether owning such an animal privately is even permitted. 

It’s not the first time Germans have been told to be on the lookout for wild animals on the loose.

In May, residents in the central German city of Erfurt were jolted by the sight of a kangaroo hopping across a busy road after escaping from a private property.

In 2019, it took several days for a deadly cobra to be recaptured in the western town of Herne, where residents had been told to keep their windows closed and steer clear of tall grass.

In 2016, German zookeepers shot dead a lion after it escaped from its enclosure in the eastern city of Leipzig and a tranquiliser failed to stop it.

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