But that soon turned to astonishment when all they found was a shopping bag in a hedge – albeit one with a realistic image of a lion’s head on it.
A farm hand in Kinyana village, just a kilometre from the Mt Kenya National park, raised the alarm after spotting what he thought was a lion just outside his employer’s home.
The bag had been placed in the hedge by the home owner, who had put some avocado tree seedlings in it and wanted to stop them drying out.
Local chief Cyrus Mbijiwe told the BBC that although there had been no recent reports of stray lions in the area, residents had complained that some of their livestock had gone missing.
“We treated the incident with a lot of caution and seriousness. We first ensured everyone was safe then wildlife officials investigated and discovered that it was a bag,” the chief said.
The homestead owner was away when the wildlife wardens were called. When she arrived back home, she was told about the lion and was advised to enter her house through the door on the opposite side of the building from the hedge, so she didn’t immediately connect the report with the bag containing her seedlings.
The shopping bag was directly below a window and when it was opened, the officials realised that the supposed lion didn’t have a body – and was in fact a shopping bag.
Despite the false alarm, the Kenya Wildlife Service said it it lauded “the public for raising an alarm in order to mitigate a possible conflict”.