What was that thing in the woods near Kleinmachnow?
The city of Berlin uninentionally provided the world with some much-needed comic relief last week. On Thursday morning, public officials in Kleinmachnow, a small village just southwest of the Berlin, announced that a “presumed lioness” was spotted roaming the woods.
Presuming an audience both seriously jaded by recent world events and critically ignorant of world geography, national news outlets helpfully clarified lions are “not native to Germany.”
Police said they had received information on the presence of the animal from witnesses who had filmed it attacking and killing a wild pig. They said they did not know where the animal may have come from, having checked with zoos, circuses and animal shelters who all said they were not missing a lioness.
Despite initial claims that several residents had reported seeing the animal Thursday night, only a single grainy mobile phone video posted to Twitter1 was ever cited as evidence of the big cat’s presence.
Lioness in Berlin? Authorities in the German capital and Brandenburg are still searching for a large cat-like animal that was spotted by both citizens and the police. pic.twitter.com/ajMoIvqi0L — DW News (@dwnews) July 20, 2023
A split-second of screen capture is all it took.
As officials warned residents as far away as Teltow, Stahnsdorf and southwest Berlin to stay inside and keep pets indoors, I thought: “I hope they aren’t doing all of this over a millisecond of blurry video on Twitter?” I’ve seen more convincing footage of the Loch Ness monster.
Hundreds of police officers, hunters with tracking dogs, and large-animal vets were called out to help. As the search resumed Friday, the police said that two of its officers had also spotted the big cat in the middle of the night.
An operation to track it down using two helicopters, drones and infrared cameras was expanded in the early hours of Thursday as a hundred police officers joined forces with hunters and vets. They would aim to tranquilise and capture the animal and only kill her if she posed a danger to people, Gruber said, adding that the search was now concentrated in the municipality’s northeastern part. Lioness escapes in Berlin; police comb streets, woodlands. Tobias Schlie, Reuters, July 21, 2023.
Internet commenters noted that the federal state of Brandenburg allows private citizens to keep big cats as pets, though Berlin prohibits it. It was indeed possible that this ‘freiganger‘ lioness was someone’s escaped (and hungry!) pet and not a runaway from a zoo or other refuge.
Primary and secondary schools are already on summer holiday, but local kitas in the affected areas remained open but opted to keep the children indoors all day. Summer camps cancelled outdoor plans and trips to the lake.
Fire services in Brandenburg said the large animal was “presumably a lioness”. However, the director of a circus in the Teltow area told local media he was not aware of any lions being held in circuses or private zoos in the area and said the animal could be a misidentified Caucasian shepherd dog. “If it’s a lion I’ll eat a broom,” Michel Rogall told Tagesspiegel newspaper.
My sister-in-law in Bremen mused that it might be a Kangal shepherd dog, a relative of the aforementioned Caucasian that is a popular pet in this part of the country.
By Saturday morning, however, with no one having found a lioness, any trace of the boar carcass it had allegedly been seen eating, or further sightings of either, the police suddenly seemed ready to move on.
Officials also had experts analyse the video and compare the animal that was depicted with the body structure of a lioness, Grubert added.
Two experts concluded independently of each other that “this isn’t a lioness or a wild animal” and that the creature “tends toward a wild boar,” he said.
Those who had been so definite on Thursday that there was a predator on the loose were now very certain that it had only been a boar.
This lead to lots of mocking derision on local social media.
So, no one really knows if there really is a lioness on the loose in south Brandenburg, or if a bored teenager pranked us all with an AI-generated bobcat.
All I know is that I plan to spend the rest of the summer on the safe (east) side.