French authorities have detained for questioning a man suspected of keeping a wild panther in an apartment from where it was rescued, only to be stolen from a zoo, legal sources said.
The animal, thought to be six months old and weighing 25-30 kilograms, was spotted on a rooftop after escaping from a flat in the northern town of Armentieres on September 18.
The ink-black feline was tranquilized with a dart and taken to a zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, awaiting a transfer to a center that rehabilitates domesticated wild animals.
Instead, the cat was stolen a week later, with Maubeuge mayor Arnaud Decagny telling AFP that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and evade zoo security systems.
Zoo personnel expressed concern for the creature’s health and welfare, but it has not yet been found.
On Tuesday, the man from whose apartment the cat had escaped presented himself to police for questioning, according to the prosecutor’s office in the city of Lille.
He was taken into custody for questioning on suspicion of illegally keeping and abusing a wild animal, “notably by cutting its claws”, an official said.
The man was listed as wanted by the police until he turned himself in on the advice of his lawyer.