Wild African leopard caught by fire service after roaming Ghent suburbs for days
“It was quite a risky operation,” admitted Ghent fire brigade, after catching a big wild cat that had been loose in the city for several days.
The brigade’s animal rescue service finally captured the serval, also known as an African leopard, by enclosing it with nets near a cafe in the Mariakerke area.
A few days before its rescue on Sunday, videos had been circulating online of the wild animal roaming northern suburbs of Ghent.
Finally on Sunday, the fire brigade received a report that it had been spotted near the terrace of the Den Boer cafe in Mariakerke.
"The serval was quite quiet," admits sergeant Nico De Craene. "We were able to keep an eye on the animal from a distance. It was initially intended to have it sedated remotely by a veterinarian, but no one was available. When the animal retreated between a few boxes, we saw our chance. We were then able to enclose it with nets and catch it."
"The serval was already hissing and lashing out at us"
De Craene said the rescue operation was not to be underestimated. "They are quite wild animals, the smallest panthers from Africa. They are difficult to approach: at a distance of five meters, the serval was already hissing and lashing out at us … Fortunately, we have the necessary protective equipment."
The animal was in good health, estimated the rescue team. It was due to be transferred to the Opglabbeek Nature Aid Centre where it will be further examined and cared for.
Mystery surrounds who the animal belongs to. "Perhaps someone kept it as a forbidden pet. It’s a fairly wild animal, so it’s not so easy to keep. They escape regularly and then of course you get such scenarios."
This is the third time in a few years that the fire brigade in Ghent region has been called upon to catch a loose serval.
Photo: Ghent fire brigade