Viral footage of a “lioness” on the loose prompted a frantic police search in Germany, but officials have admitted the animal wasn’t quite what it seemed.
The alarm was raised in Berlin on Thursday after videos of a mysterious animal rifling through the undergrowth in the outskirts of the city began to circulate online.
German officials quickly called a press conference, in which they held up an image of the animal mocked up against a picture of a lioness. No zoos or circuses had reported a missing lion and police guessed it could be an escaped pet.
“The two gentlemen recorded a smartphone video and even experienced police officers had to confirm that it is probably a lioness,” said police spokesman Daniel Kiep.
The footage sparked a massive search, with hunters, vets and drones all deployed to look for the dangerous animal. More than 30 patrol cars were involved in the quest, as well as helicopters, heat-seeking equipment and sniffer dogs.
Riot police were deployed “to protect the population” in Berlin’s southwest suburbs and armoured vehicles were spotted in the vicinity. Schoolchildren were advised to stay indoors and residents were urged to keep their pets inside.
Police said multiple tips “in the double-digit range” were received but none led to a lion being found.
In an anticlimactic turn of events, German officials admitted on Friday they had no evidence of a big cat roaming the nation’s capital. The animal, it seems, was actually a wild boar — which can be dangerous but are not uncommon in Europe.
The mayor of Kleinmachnow, Michael Grubert, conceded he was “sceptical from the beginning” that a lion was on the loose.
Police had not “found a single indication of any lion or wild animal, other than wild boar”, the mayor said.
“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 told reporters on Friday.
Although officers reported seeing the lion on Friday morning, they weren’t very close and Mr Grubert said he believed they, too, were duped by the boar.
“I’ve seen a few big pigs in my time as mayor and I was surprised at how light-coloured this big pig was,” he added.
Mr Grubert declined to share how much had been spent on the investigation, adding the search for a lion was over.
Police will react if there is another credible sighting, he added.