Police in Essex are investigating reports that a lion has been spotted in a field near St Osyth.
Residents have been advised to stay indoors after the sighting in fields off Earls Hall Drive around 19:00 BST.
Essex police are working with experts from Colchester Zoo who believe the reports to be genuine after being shown a photograph by a member of the public.
Local resident Che Kevlin told the BBC: “I heard a loud roar at 10pm. It sounded like the roar of a lion.”
Tip: Tim Ashley
The local zoo is not missing an animal. Officials are checking to see if one may have escaped. The picture mentioned above has been released. It is not clear just how credible the evidence is for this but they are taking it seriously. Stay tuned. (Further updates are appreciated)
UPDATE (27-Aug-2012) (Associated Press article) There have been no droppings or prints found. There is one questionable picture on the Daily Mail. It’s not clear if the picture is the one given to authorities that made them pretty certain they were dealing with a big cat. This piece from the Guardian quotes a zoologist that says it’s probably a dog, not a male lion.
Forsyth and zoological director Anthony Tropeano of Colchester zoo arrived in St Osyth, where the sighting occurred, with tranquiliser equipment at the request of police, she said.
“By the time we got there whatever it was had gone. We were shown some photographs, but they were from very far away, very poor quality and to be honest there was no way of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Forsyth said.
Asked if she was sceptical that the animal pictured was a lion, she said: “I think it’s unlikely. I think it was more likely to be a dog. It certainly wasn’t a male lion. It didn’t have a mane.”
Still many questions remain.
Improbable sightings of dangerous animals are a familiar part of the British news cycle, particularly at the height of summer when journalists struggle to fill papers and news bulletins.
It’s difficult to believe an African lion is on the loose when NO ONE says they are missing any.
UPDATE: Called off. Probably not a lion.
Police officers decided to call off the search on Monday after no trace of a big cat was found.
A police spokesman said: “We believe what was seen on Sunday evening was either a large domestic cat or a wildcat.
This is the picture. (!?!?!) Holy hell, how can you expend resources for that!