German zoo says 'escaped' big cats never left enclosures

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
These lions, Malor and Lira (front), were pictured at the Eifel zoo in 2016

Two lions, two tigers and a jaguar reported to have escaped from a storm-hit zoo in western Germany never left their enclosures, it has emerged.

A search was launched and residents told to stay indoors after floods swept through the zoo in Lünebach, leaving the animals unaccounted for.

The big cats were found after waters receded - still in their enclosures.

A bear that did escape from its enclosure in the privately owned Eifel zoo was shot dead, officials confirmed.

Andreas Kruppert, mayor of the municipality of Arzfeld, said zookeepers lost track of the big cats during the storm but later located them, still in their enclosures, with the help of a drone.

"We are very happy that the scenario we had initially feared didn't turn out to be the case," he told a news conference.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The zoo was deluged when a nearby river burst its banks during the storm

Mr Kruppert said the decision to shoot the bear was made to protect the public.

"As a result of serious flooding the high water pressure on the gate [of the bear enclosure] meant that it gave way," he said.

"As a result, and also in an effort to save itself from the rising water, the bear fled the enclosure on to the path. Emergency responders were already there and because the bear posed a serious threat to the people in the vicinity the bear sadly had to be shot."

He added that flood damage to the zoo was being assessed and animals would be transferred to another zoo if necessary.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Roads around the zoo were closed while the search for the animals was carried out

The 30-hectare (74-acre) zoo, owned by the Wallpott family, is home to nearly 400 animals of 60 species, including Siberian tigers and lions.

It was first established in 1965 with only dogs, donkeys and a wild boar, according to the zoo's website, and is visited by 70,000 people a year.

In 2016 two lions broke out of their cages at a zoo in Leipzig in eastern Germany. One was shot dead and the other recaptured.

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