Fear of big cats ‘zoo break’ sparks lockdown in German town
By Agence France-Presse
A flood-hit German town was locked down for several hours Friday over fears that five dangerous big cats had escaped a local zoo before they were found hiding in their soggy enclosures.
A drone deployed to find the missing beasts — two lions, two tigers and a jaguar — finally located them within their caged areas, said regional authorities.
During the frenzied search for the predators, involving police and the fire brigade, authorities had cautioned residents to stay indoors and keep doors and windows shut.
As it turned out, the cats had never left the sprawling 30-hectare Eifel Zoo in Luenebach, much of which was under water after huge thunderstorms overnight.
A bear which had broken free from its enclosure was however shot dead, a spokesman for local authorities said.
The big cats were only found after the water began receding, said mayor Andreas Kruppert from the town located close to the Luxembourg border.
Heavy rainstorms overnight had sparked flash floods. At the zoo, which is located on a riverbank, the water was knee-high.
Official were now examining whether the animals should be moved to another zoo while clear-up operations continue.
The storm had caused widespread devastation in the region, where many residents were Friday clearing muddy water from their cellars and removing downed trees.
Part of a local motorway had been blocked off due to high waters, and a train was derailed although no injuries were reported.
The Eifel zoo, owned by the Wallpott family, is home to around 400 animals, also including a Siberian tiger.
In an earlier zoo incident two year ago, two lions broke out of their cages at the Leipzig zoo. One was captured, the other shot dead.
In 2015, an orang-utan was shot dead while on the run from the Duisburg zoo, and a bear escapee from Osnabrueck suffered the same fate in 2017.