Belfast Lion Sighted

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 31st, 2008

Moments ago, I was on the UK’s Sky News radio show, “Talk Sports” with Ian Collins, discussing cryptozoology. During a break in the program, the regional news was read and included breaking word from Belfast, Northern Ireland, of the sightings of and search for a “lion.”

Needless to say, after the show, I dug into this and found the following details of the encounters and the resulting attempt to capture this large cat.

On the evening of Sunday, August 31, 2008, a search was being conducted by police in Northern Ireland after sightings of a large sandy-colored felid in Cavehill Park, a short distance from the Belfast Zoo. Northern Ireland police deployed a helicopter in the hunt, without success. The location of the sightings does not surprise me, considering the source of the reports are a social felid.

Official checks with the zoo personnel found no big cats missing from the zoo. Keepers had checked all cages in the zoo and all the animals were accounted for.

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: “We are taking this seriously, there have been a string of calls about sightings. It wasn’t just one person. A number of witnesses have described the animal as a sandy-coloured lion or large non-domestic cat.

“Police in North Belfast are warning the public to be aware of sightings of what appears to be a lion in the Upper Hightown end of Cavehill Park. Police are currently responding to the incident and would urge the public to avoid the area. Anyone who thinks they may have seen the animal should not attempt to approach it.”

The search was expected to continue on Monday morning.

Sources: “Lion sighted in Belfast park,” by Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, 31 Aug 2008; “Lion ‘on the loose in Belfast’,” ITN, 31 Aug 2008.

My past research experiences in tracking such incidents have indicated that large cats, especially social ones like lions, often show up near zoos, apparently in response to the roars and calls coming from other lions.

[See my September 1st update here.]

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Belfast Lion Sighted”

  1. jmac75115 responds:

    What is going on with these British Isle felids? Are these “big cat” sightings the offspring of the exotic cat fashion trend of the sixties? Could they be something else? It does seem that these sightings are on the rise, are we dealing with an increase in population size or a growing familiarity with human contact? Unfortunately, unless someone can either capture or bag one of these cats we’ll never really know if they are a previously unknown native species (unlikely), or hybridized descendants of former pets(likely).

  2. Quakerhead responds:

    Probably an escaped or (sadly) a released “pet”. It’s frightening to think of the number of people that think still that if they acquire a large exotic cat when it’s young that it will be a “big kitty cat” when it matures. More often than not, the big kitty will seem perfectly adapted for domestic life and then one day, someone is hurt or killed with no warning. In my area, just a few years ago, a woman was attacked and had her scalp ripped off by her beloved black leopard. The cat was killed by a sheriff’s deputy and she nearly died.

  3. Gary the Cat responds:

    Something that makes the sighting of oop large cats and other animals more likely in Ireland is this; when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in the rest of the UK in 1976(?), it ws not enacted in Northern Ireland due to the difficulty in prosecuting it (due to the political situation).
    I can remember seeing a TV programme showing the NI equivalent of the RSPCA visiting the homes of the IRA Warlords who all kept exotic pets like Wolves, Lynx, Lions etc as status symbols-being “The Big Man” locally, and possibly for disposing of their political rivals.
    I don’t know if this is still the situation, but given how much of what goes on in NI is supressed in the media to give the impression of peace, it is likely that these animals are still kept, escape, or are discarded on a regular basis.

  4. Gary the Cat responds:

    In an addendum to my prior comment-the conditions these poor beasts were kept in was horrendous.
    Most lived in what were no bigger or better than bird cages in the terraced council house backyards of the slums of Belfast.
    I should think death was a mercy to the animals.

  5. dogu4 responds:

    If they do indeed turn out to be big cats, whether lions, leopards or even tigers, I hope they stay on the loose and remind us all that it wasn’t too long ago when these species were our cohabitants and should be rightly returned in some meaningful way.

  6. cryptidsrus responds:

    Hopefully the felid will be caught and no one will get hurt (including the animal).

    I feel you, bud, but I don’t think the good people of Belfast or parts near it will quite appreciate having a population of Irish lions roaming about the countryside near their city. Maybe in a preserve, but not near Belfast. They already have “Troubles” of their own without adding to it, ya know?

  7. dogu4 responds:

    Cryptidsrus: it’s no secret that the biggest hurdle to doing almost anything worthwhile is overcoming humans instinctive fear of the new or unfamiliar. It’s particularly sad when it’s fear of wild animals as they are our natural co-inhabitants and particularly now in modern times the likelihood of much predation is so small. If they’re there on our outskirts and remaining elusive as they seem to have been, then they can’t really be as much of a problem as our fear suggests…but the “red in tooth and claw” aspect of our apprehension would take a lot of consciousness raising and awareness expansion to get over our nightmares. In the mean time I remain a staunch advocate of re-establishing pleistocene communities using sorrogates and genetic selection to return the full complexity and dirvesity those under-populated and biologically impoverished areas of our own intermountain west and southwest. Cheers

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