Police in Essex are investigating apparent sightings of a lion (Panthera leo) near Clacton-on-Sea. However, they have urged the public to remain calm, as one reported sighting has already been confirmed as a simple house cat (Felis domesticus), while others could be members of popular reality TV show The Only Way Is Essex (believed to be Homo sapiens).
Aiding the investigation is the use of modern genetics – the police have stated that usual methods of identification are of little use when comparing two animals so similar in features. Anthony Tropeano, zoological director of Colchester Zoo who has been helping with the search, states that “tan skin and long, blonde hair or fur are common to both groups, while the usual indicator of Homo sapiens – bipedalism – is of little use as members of the TOWIE subspecies can often be seen on all fours.”
Holidaymaker Bob Martin was one of the first to see it up close, but can offer little insight into its identity. “It seemed to be licking itself at first, excreting wherever it wanted, and then urinated on my wife. I think I saw that episode last week though.”
St. Osyth resident Che Kevlin was certain a lion was outside of his house when he heard a loud roar while playing backgammon with his wife. While he believes this is proof enough, Kevlin has confessed he has never seen an episode of TOWIE, and critics have pointed out it could simply have been a chunder dragon.
Of course, some taxonomic features may be of some use in preliminary identification. For example, a lion would be unlikely to wear leopard print fur.
Genetic sequencing will require that the creature is captured first though. When questioned on whether tranquilizers will be used, police stated that they would “consider their use only if the public insisted on taking photos of the animal using Instagram. That should then enable [them] to focus on trapping it.”
In order to locate the trail, experts from Colchester Zoo have been called in to search for key signs of passage, such as faeces, paw prints, and the remains of human corpses. Once located, the current plan of action involves planting a giant MGM logo as bait, a well-established trap for escaped lions. After it has been safely sedated, the beast will have its genome sequenced, followed by a comparison with the sequence of a known TOWIE cast member.
“That should enable us to determine whether this thing is a human, house cat, lion, or a snow leopard wearing fake tan and hear extensions,” said Tropeano.
This plan is still in its preliminary stages though, so police are telling the public to err on the side of caution, such as when walking dogs, and they have urged young men on nights out not to mistake it for the regular cougars of Essex.
Critics have voiced concerns, stating that lions and the cast of TOWIE are significantly different – indeed, the cast of TOWIE are often prey for the maned cats, often reporting them as tasting “slimy… yet satisfying.”
As the search still goes on, new information regarding the creature’s whereabouts have come to light, as it was last seen entering a wardrobe at the Ecuadorian embassy seeking asylum.