Military police in the department of Mayenne in northwestern France confirmed they were on a slightly unusual hunt, as they pursue a lion that is reportedly roaming the French countryside.
The story began when five “credible witnesses” reported sightings of the big cat late last week which were then reported by local and international media.
From the accounts it seemed the lioness was heading from east to west in the direction of the popular tourist region of Brittany in north west France, though there is no photographic evidence.
File photo: AFP
A truck driver was first to spot the beast on July 20th. He described the creature as having “the head and the gait of a lion” but no mane.
He assured France Bleu that coming from a family of hunters, he has a good eye for different animals and was convinced it was not just a large cat.
A police search team including sniffer dogs set out to trace the animal.
But with no missing animals reported from circuses or zoos in the area, it is not clear where the animal would have escaped from if it is indeed roaming the French countryside.
And on Tuesday local police said the search for the lion was “no longer a priority” and that the possibility that a lion was on the loose “seemed less and less credible”, according to local paper Le Courrier de la Mayenne, particularly as no animal carcasses such as sheep or cows have been reported in the area.
“A lioness eats around 3kg of meat every day, with two days of fasting a week,” Vincent Lantheaume, head healthcare specialist at a wildlife park near Nantes, told Le Télégramme.
And director of wild cat charity, Panthera agreed: “It's rare for a lion to fast for this long. If she exists, she's in a critical state.”
If there is indeed a lioness roaming the French countryside, she wouldn't be the only potentially dangerous animal the authorities are currently contending with.
In the Dordogne, the hunt is currently on for a possibly drug-addled aggressive deer that has been attacking locals in the popular tourist spot.