There may or may not be a lion roaming through St. Osyth near Essex, England.
According to the BBC, a lion-like animal was first sighted on Sunday night by a vacationing couple.
But this post is less about the veracity of the claim – indeed, a single picture was determined to be insufficient evidence and a police search has since been called off – than what has ensued in the hours since.
While the lion has yet to resurface, he or she (no confirmation on mane) has taken to Twitter as @TheeEssexLion as well as @EssexLion. Written entirely in all caps, messages from the former express an oftentimes vulgar and biting sense of humour, largely related to eating humans. With just 23 tweets at the time of writing this, the Twitter account has amassed more than 14,000 followers. The latter is slightly tamer but also entirely capitalized. Its 46 tweets have attracted 38,000-plus followers.
British media have pounced on the story, or at least its potential to generate traffic.
This morning, The Guardian began live blogging lion updates. Thankfully, writer Lizzy Davies is taking a skeptical tact, peppering whatever news of import with dry tangential posts (such as other dangerous wild animals that require a licence to keep domestically).
The Daily Mirror has collected the best jokes inspired by the beast. “Best” should come with the disclaimer: Funny only if you live in Essex.
In part, this cry wolf story has legs because today is a bank holiday in Britain, so there are likely to be more people trolling the Internet aimlessly.
But erring on the side of caution, authorities did not immediately chock this up to a hoax or otherwise. Armed policemen, infrared equipment and helicopters were all deployed to rule out a wild cat before the search was called off.
All the animals had been accounted for at the nearby Colchester Zoo.
If there is any upside to the commotion, it’s that the British have, at least temporarily, found a story more entertaining than Prince Harry’s Las Vegas escapades. Indeed, the Royal Family must grateful for the Essex Lion for such silly uproar.