The Italian Almanac


A Tiger Near Florence

A hunt to catch a tiger has started in the hills around Florence after several sightings which police are treating as credible. Police, forest guards, dog teams and helicopters are combing forests while chunks of wild boar meat have been left in traps and speed cameras positioned on trails the animal is believed likely to take. Police have jokingly dubbed their target Kabir, the name of an Indian actor who played Italy's most famous literary pirate and jungle adventurer Sandokan.

The safari took off after a mushroom hunter said he saw the animal in the woods near the village of Rufina and a tourist said it padded through the courtyard of her country home. Quizzing locals, police found one who claimed he heard a tiger roar two nights ago and his brother-in-law found a footmark "similar to that of a big cat" which has unfortunately since disappeared.

"The sightings are credible," a police spokesman said despite pooh-poohing by some who point out that no circus or zoo has reported a missing feline.So far there have been no reports of sheep or wild animals killed by something resembling a tiger. But the 60 hunters are confident the animal will come out of hiding to feed, hopefully on one of the boar hams.

Skeptics, though, recall that a "panther hunt" triggered by sightings in the same area several years ago produced no cat.