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English police launch lion hunt after reported sighting

posted 27 Aug 2012, 08:54 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Aug 2012, 08:55 ]

Armed police in England are hunting for a lion after a report a beast was on the loose in the countryside.

Firearms officers and police helicopters were looking for a lion thought to be roaming loose in the south-east of England early on Monday (August 27).
Residents were told to stay indoors as search teams worked throughout the night to track down a beast, which had been reported roaming in a field by a member of the public on Sunday night (August 26).

Police have enlisted the help of experts from Colchester Zoo who believe the sighting to be genuine after viewing a photograph of the animal taken by a local.

The landlord of a pub near to where the beast was sighted said some families were worried.

"We've had karaoke here tonight and everyone carried on enjoying themselves. A couple of families with young children were a little bit worried but after a while, they've all been in here all day and they've had a good time," said landlord Dave Sparks, of the coincidentally named Red Lion pub in St. Osyth, Essex.

Police issued a warning to residents to stay inside their homes as officers began a search near to the location of the sighting.

Police spokeswoman Donna Veasey said encroaching nightfall hampered their search.

"Because the report came in to us at seven o'clock on Sunday evening, we didn't have a lot of daylight left to actually have a look for anything. So we obviously then, because it became dark, the search has been that much more difficult, very difficult to see with obviously no light. What we're hoping, when it does become light, is we'll be able to send officers back to some of the areas where the sightings have been reported to look for signs that there might have been any animal there, footprints for example," Veasey said.

Police are trying to establish where the lion, if it turns out to be such, may have come from and have urged anyone who sees it to call the emergency line, 999.

A force spokeswoman confirmed the animal had not escaped from Colchester Zoo, as all its animals had been accounted for

There have been rumours that the big cat may have escaped from a circus that had been performing in the Essex area, but this has not been confirmed.