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French police on the lookout for black panthers

July 5, 2013 at 3:52 PM   |   Comments

TOULON, France, July 5 (UPI) -- Police in southeastern France said they were on the lookout for black panthers following recent sightings and an analysis of tracks by an expert.

Investigators in the Toulon area said there have been several sightings in recent days of a black panther or possibly two black panthers in the region and helicopters are being kept at the ready, The Local.fr reported Friday.

"The police are conducting patrols in the area and are waiting for the next sighting to trigger a helicopter search of the area," the police chief in the town of Var said.

Police said efforts were focused on the area between Toulon and the village of Revest-les-Eaux.

Jean-Pierre Georges, manager of the nearby Mont Faron Zoo, told the Var Matin newspaper he has analyzed tracks in the area and believes them to be big cats.

"There is no doubt it is a cat, probably a black panther. This is because there are some easily identifiable tracks. Cats have retractable claws unlike dogs. The tracks I saw on the ground had no claw marks, only marks from the pads of the feet," he said.

Georges said he is not aware of any missing black panthers, which are native to Asia and Africa.

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