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Lioness whereabouts still unknown

A feline on the loose in the north-west continues to evade capture - but authorities have cast doubt on 'sightings'

The hunt for the mysterious lioness said to be on the loose in northwest France has taken another twist, as the 'animal' continues to evade capture.

Authorities first became aware of the animal on Thursday, after police in the Mayenne received a series of calls from members of the public who said they had seen what was described as either a lioness or perhaps a young male lion between the town of Laval and the village of Vaiges, west of Le Mans.

The big cat was first sighted in a field in Changé, and since then up to five witnesses have come forward. 

But, following initial searches, authorities are increasingly certain that the sightings are not of a lion. According to the Mayenne prefecture office director Anthony Boukoucha, there is 'no material evidence' to corroborate the witness accounts - no farmers have reported that livestock have been killed, and no prints have been found despite several searches of the vicinity.

“There are witnesses but no traces of the animal,” said Yann Huchedé, head of the nearby animal rescue foundation Refuge d’Arche. “It’s difficult to know if the animal is dangerous because we don’t know its history, how close it has been to humans. It could also be another type of feline.”

A theory that the animal may have been kept privately is also being questioned. The head of Mayenne's National Office of Hunting and Wildlife, Denis Leroy, said: "Owners of such an animal must have the appropriate diplomas and must be registered with local authorities. There is no-one registered in the area."

Anyone who believes they may have seen the animal is advised to dial 17.

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