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Escaped black panther owner wanted by French police

Police in northern France are still searching for the owner of a black panther, after the dangerous animal escaped and was spotted wandering around on nearby rooftops.

The panther was seen by alarmed neighbours, who called the fire brigade at 18h23 on Thursday September 19, with reports of a “dangerous animal” calmly walking around building roofs, in the town of Armentières, in the Nord (Hauts-de-France).

The animal was captured after a two-and-a-half hour intervention.

The fire brigade created a security area, to avoid the panther jumping down, and - with the help of a wild animal expert and a vet - finally managed to capture it “inside a house”.

The animal was then safely sedated by a fire brigade vet using a “hypodermic gun” with tranquiliser darts, and transported away in a cage. No-one was injured.

It is thought that the panther escaped through an open window of a private home, but no-one was at home at the time of the incident.

Reports have suggested that the animal’s owner - who will most likely have been keeping the animal illegally - may be on the run, with some witness reports claiming that “the owner was on holiday”, but others saying that they had left “just before” the fire brigade arrived on the scene.

A spokesperson for the Nord Direction Départementale de la Sécurité Publique (DDSP), said: “At the time of emergency intervention, the property was empty, and no suspect has yet been arrested at this stage.”

Wild animal office l'Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (ONCFS) - which is part of the ecology ministry - has also opened an inquiry, “to determine the legal circumstances of the keeping of the animal” as well as its “origin” and “how it arrived in Armentières”.

At the very least, the owner risks at minimum one year in prison, and a €15,000 fine, for “endangering the lives of others” and a “deliberate violation of an obligation of safety or care”.

In addition, the ONCFS said that the keeping of wild animals - especially those that are dangerous or endangered - without proper permission, is “punishable by three years in prison and a €150,000 fine”.

The animal was later placed in the care of by the animal welfare society la Ligue Protectrice des Animaux (LPA) du Nord, before being taken to Maubeuge zoo, “with capacity to provide it with the best conditions”.

The panther is estimated to be “five to six months” old, weighing around 20 kilos, and is “doing well”, the LPA said. It appears to be in good health, but has had its claws clipped - presumably by its owner.

One police officer on the scene told local newspaper La Voix du Nord: “In 20 years, I’ve never seen that. A snake, yes. But not a big cat like this.”

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