DAILY MAIL, BBC NEWS, THE GUARDIAN (U.K.)
British Police are investigating reports on Monday of a lion on the loose in the southeastern county of Essex, near the village of St. Osyth.
Residents of #stosyth are advised to enjoy the bank holiday Monday but to be cautious. Officers still in the area conducting searches
— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) August 27, 2012
The BBC reports that police are cooperating with the nearby Colchester zoo, which deemed the reports genuine after analyzing a long-range photograph by a member of the public.
One local resident told the BBC that he heard a "loud roar" near his house last night.
Two helicopters and approximately 30 armed police officers were deployed in the area to search for the beast. The Colchester Zoo and a nearby circus both told authorities all animals were accounted for.
"It was one million percent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there, it seemed to be enjoying itself," said Rich Baker, a resident of Clacton where the lion was allegedly last seen, according to the Daily Mail.
The Guardian has started a live blog to monitor the situation and to determine whether the lion-on-the-loose is a hoax, noting that a similar sighting of a white tiger last year in Hampshire caused quite a stir - until the animal turned out to be a stuffed toy.
The reports of the lion sighting prompted many Twitter users to joke about the situation and poke fun at Essex stereotypes.
Police have reported that with further observation, it turns out the lion in Essex is a snow leopard with a spray tan and hair extensions.
— Danny Osborne (@thedannyosborne) August 27, 2012
— The Poke(@ThePoke) August 26, 2012
This is getting interesting. The Essex Lion has just taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy #essexlion
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) August 27, 2012
Someone even went as far as to create a dedicated Twitter account for the lion, which already has more than 28,000 followers and purportedly follows its peregrenations around Essex.
ON ME WAY TO THE CARPARK FOR A PROPER FIGHT. BRUVS GOING DOWN. LISTENING TO CIRCLE OF LIFE TO GET PUMPED.
— Essex Lion (@EssexLion) August 26, 2012
ME MANE IS TOO MENTAL. FIRST ONE TO LAUGH AT ME ROMFORD FACELIFT GETS THEIR ARM MAULED
— Essex Lion (@EssexLion) August 27, 2012