Police and municipal officials were looking into claims of an ‘exotic black cat’ that was spotted in a residential neighbourhood in Dubai on Tuesday.
A video of the sighting, said to be in The Springs 3 area, was shared on the community’s dedicated Facebook page.
Officials were out in force, but said they had found nothing as of Tuesday evening.
Security staff and municipality vehicles were seen surveying the area when The National visited.
At about 4pm, a security guard from the neighbourhood said a team from the municipality welfare department had been sent to the area to locate the animal, but after an hours-long search nothing was found.
"We have been looking for the animal since it was allegedly spotted by a resident this morning," a security guard, told The National.
“Dubai Municipality officers also came to The Springs 3. Security guards are in the area and we are trying to find it.”
After looking at the 30-second video clip of the animal, which looked as though it was filmed from a private garden, Dr Sara Elliott, founder of the British Veterinary Hospital, said it appeared to be a young black leopard or panther.
She said the animal could have escaped from a nearby villa, and like most cats, would prefer to stay hidden in areas with a lot of undergrowth.
“It appears to be a black leopard or panther and it looks young, from the way it is moving,” Dr Elliott said.
“Without specifically seeing the full size of the animal or a close-up, it’s impossible to say which breed it is.
“Leopards are smaller in size – adults only reach about 30 kilograms – so it appears to be in line with that kind of sizing.”
During a call with a customer service agent from Emaar Community Management on Tuesday, an agent told The National it had received several complaints from residents in the area about an animal on the loose.
The large lake where the cat was spotted is shared between Springs 3, Meadows 5 and 6 and is connected to the nearby Emirates Hills estate.
In 2016, the UAE introduced Federal Law 22 on the trade of wild animals, stating that only zoos, wildlife parks, circuses, breeding and research centres were allowed to keep dangerous, wild or exotic creatures.
The law also revoked permits issued to other authorities for such animals.
Anyone who takes a leopard, cheetah or any other kind of exotic animal out in public could face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of between Dh10,000 and Dh500,000.