Two hundred police officers; 30 members of the armed forces; a helicopter and specialist dogs trained to sniff out their quarry.
And still, 48 hours after it was first spotted, a tiger (or more likely a smaller member of the big cat family) was still on the loose in the outskirts of Paris last night.
In the town hall of Montévrain – just 2.5 miles from Disneyland Paris – officials have been left scratching their heads, not only over what the big cat might be, but also where it might be hiding.
“In a situation like this, the beast is supposed to have been found after 48 hours,” Cédric Tartaud-Gineste, a member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party and director of the cabinet for the mayor of Montévrain, told The Independent.
After locals reported seeing a “tiger” on Thursday, or according to one eyewitness, “a big beast with a feline gait”, the hunt has been on. Yesterday, officers carrying rifles were seen marching through surrounding countryside.
Local authorities also announced yesterday analyses of fresh paw prints which ruled out the prospect that the missing big cat was a tiger.
A delegate of the National Board of Wildlife and Hunting, Eric Hansen, suggested the animal could be “a lynx or a big wild cat”. Yet in another twist, local zoos and circuses have all denied having lost such a feline.
“Sure [the action plan] has mobilised a lot of people, but for us it’s all about zero risk,” Mr Tartaud-Gineste said. “These means seem exceptional because a lot of people are dispatched, but it is a normal arrangement when there are sightings of a feline beast of the tiger family.”
Police were reported to have taken to ringing alarm bells around the area, in an attempt to dislodge it from its hiding place.
Also taking part in the research is a special search dog, which is normally used to hunt aggressive animals including bears and big game such as wild boar and moose.
While officers on the ground armed with paralysing darts were ordered to sedate the animal in case it turns out to be an endangered species, the authorities confirmed they will be given the right to kill it if it becomes dangerous.
After lifting the emergency security plan in Montévrain yesterday, the authorities issued a warning that a feline “with two pointed ears and a massive body” might have moved on to the neighbouring town of Ferrières-en-Brie.
“We remain vigilant, but not paranoid,” said Mr Tartaud-Gineste.
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