WARSAW (AFP) - Polish police are on the hunt for a former soldier who fled into a forest with a puma to avoid handing it over to a zoo.
About 200 officers have been involved in trying to track down the former Afghan war veteran and the big cat for three days.
"It's not a cuddly toy. It's one of the most dangerous animals in the world and it could be a real threat to people's lives," said Ewa Zgrabczynska, head of the Poznan zoo in western Poland.
Keeping such dangerous animals is banned in Poland, and the man had been ordered by a court to turn the animal over to a zoo.
Zoo officials went to his house in southern Poland on Friday but he threatened them with a knife before fleeing with the puma on a leash, according to local media reports.
Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper said the man had bought the animal six years ago in the Czech Republic and had been raising it at home.
Police declined to give details on the hunt, with spokesman Tomasz Grabos telling AFP only: "We are continuing our operations." But the fugitives have won support in some quarters.
"Love for the animal and a heartless court decision forced him to flee. He is hiding in the forest," Dariusz Wojtowicz, mayor of the southern town of Myslowice, said on Facebook.
"Maybe someone could take a more humane look at this case," he said, posting images of the man he identified as Kamil S. and the puma called Nubia.