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Panther: Police In Spain Hunt For Big Cat
Spanish authorities are using night vision equipment to hunt for a panther-like big cat that has been spotted by residents.
More than half a dozen people have reported seeing the black "large feline" in farmland around Berja, just inland from the south coast.
Several cages containing meat and image intensifying cameras have been set up in an attempt to catch the beast.
Search coordinator, Jacinto Navarro, said on Friday: "From all the witnesses' descriptions it seems it is a black panther but we're not sure.
"This very morning, almond farmers called us saying they were stunned to see this animal walking around.
"They are worried because we are dealing with an animal that is dangerous in the wild.
"We guess that someone who had the animal as a pet let it loose in this area."
The area where the beast has been seen lies about half way between Granada and Almeria, about ten miles inland from the Costa Tropical and not far from the Costa del Sol.
Mr Navarro, an environmental officer for the Andalusia regional government, said there had been no reports of such an animal going missing in the area.
But the authorities were having to take it seriously as it was feared it could be roaming around the Sierra Nevada National Park.
The park is popular with walkers and the local government feels it cannot take any risks.
The "absolute priority" of the team of three environmental officers and three police was to catch the feline alive, he said.
Earlier, despite setting up two cages in the area with large chunks of meat inside, they trapped no more than a domestic cat and a fox, both of which were released.
On Friday, two more cages and two night-vision cameras were added.
If the animal is trapped, officers hope to shoot it with a tranquiliser gun and hand it over to a zoo in the neighbouring town of Tabernas which has offered to take it in.