Photo: Black Panther Spotted in Southern Spanish Town of Berja
The supposed sighting of a black panther by residents in a park in Berja, a city in southern Spain, has upended the lives of the nearly 15,000 people who call the area home and fueled speculation about the existence of the big cat.
Officials closed the park, put out baited traps and installed cameras in an effort to catch the cat, while six officers have been assigned to conduct an active search.
The animal was first spotted two weeks ago by a Berja resident, but the sighting was not reported to police until a week later.
Two more people reported seeing the animal in the park and all of them agreed that they had seen a large black cat.
The big cat may have escaped from a circus or a private property where it was being kept illegally, experts said.
Officials said the plan was to catch the big cat with a tranquilizer dart and take it to the zoo in the nearby city of Tabernas, where Jose Maria Rodriguez is the director of veterinary services.
“The whole bit about darts is really nice in the movies, but you have to have the animal close and the anesthetic effect is not immediate, so from the time you fire the dart to the time it falls asleep it can hide and you won’t know where it is,” Rodriguez said.
A wild panther would be aggressive and attack, “but this animal has not done that at any time and does not see people as food,” Rodriguez said.
“They’ll catch it if it really exists, especially if the animal is used to being in a cage,” Rodriguez said.