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GERMAN cops are hunting for a suspected lioness that was spotted loose in Berlin as residents have been warned to stay indoors.
Dubbed by local media "Operation Lion Hunt", police have now arrived with hunters, helicopters, armoured cars, drones and tranquilliser guns.
The massive police operation is currently underway to locate the "escaped wild animal" that is prowling the city's edges freely.
Officers have advised residents of Berlin's southern suburbs to stay in their homes and keep their pets indoors.
A police spokesperson this morning said: "We have deployed massive forces at the site to protect the population."
"We are currently working on the assumption that the animal is a lioness," a spokesperson later added.
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Five experienced hunters with tranquilliser guns are said to be combing the area alongside veterinarians, while police are using thermal imagery to scour the area.
A 15-ton special task force armoured vehicle known as "Survivor" also entered the hunt to assist the helicopters and drones.
The suspected lioness was first sighted last night by locals who reported seeing a big cat running after a wild boar.
"Around midnight, witnesses saw a predator tearing down a wild boar," police spokesman Daniel Kiep told Bild, adding that wild boars are common in the area.
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"We also got video material about it. It is therefore a lioness. There is currently no reason for us to doubt its authenticity."
However, it is still not know where the feline came from.
Kiep said that zoos, animal parks, circuses and sanctuaries had been checked but none of them had reported a missing animal.
"We don't know where it came from," he said.
This morning, Brandenburg police warned residents in the districts of Kleinmachnow, Teltow and Stahnsdorf to watch out for a potentially dangerous animal on the loose.
They tweeted: "The wild animal that escaped has not yet been found!
"We ask you not to leave your houses."
The search area was then extended further into southern Berlin as the animal remained free.
Vet Dr. Fred Willizkat told Bild that lions on the loose are not necessarily hungry but they're unpredictable.
"That's what makes it dangerous," he said.
"A lion can attack anything that he doesn't know and that scares him."
A local resident, Mariam B said: "The lioness must have been right on our doorstep because the police searched there very intensively!"
“Dogs were barking all over the neighbourhood. We were told over the loudspeaker that we were not allowed to leave the house" she told Bild.
"Now we were finally allowed to take our children to the day care centre.”
Another local mother, Beate Geeske, said: "I think it's good that the children aren't allowed out.
"But I didn't worry too much on the way here. I walked where there are still people on the street.”
A Kleinmachnow spokesperson said children at kindergartens are not allowed to enter the gardens, while sellers at local markets were advised not to set up stalls yet.
She added: "There are hardly any people there. This sort of thing doesn't happen every day."
Should anyone run into the wild animal, the main thing is not to panic, said Florian Eiserlo of the Four Paws animal welfare organisation.
"Stand still, stay calm, try to head to a safe area such as a car or a building," Eiserlo told the Rheinische Post.
Once the animal is found, it will likely be sedated with a tranquilliser and taken to an animal shelter, said police spokesperson Kiep.
It's not the first time Germans have been told to be on the lookout for wild animals on the loose.
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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 2016, German zookeepers had to shoot dead a lion after it escaped from its enclosure in the eastern city of Leipzig and a tranquilliser failed to stop it.
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