Story highlights

Lioness and cub safely back; at least two missing, wildlife service spokesman says

Wildlife officials urge vigilance as big cats sneak out of the park

Residents report seeing them in residential areas around Nairobi

CNN  — 

Several lions left a mostly enclosed park and wandered into neighborhoods in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, leaving residents on edge and officials scrambling to find the animals.

Two of the big cats – a lioness and her cub – were safely back at the Nairobi National Park by Friday afternoon. At least two others remained missing, Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto said.

The public reported seeing lions in crowded residential areas at predawn Friday, springing the wildlife service’s search teams into action.

Udoto said the lions still on the loose would likely return to the park before daybreak Saturday. He did not say how the first two lions made their way back.

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The park near Nairobi’s central business district is largely bounded by an electric fence to keep animals inside.

But its south side – away from the city – is instead bordered by a river. It wasn’t immediately clear what path the lions took to sneak out of the park and enter the residential areas.

A young lion looks toward the city skyline at the Nairobi National Park last year.

Animals at the park include leopards, buffaloes and giraffes grazing in open spaces, with the city’s skyline in the background.

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Officials urged vigilance and warned residents to call a toll-free number if they spot the big cats.

“Our team has been on ground since 3 a.m. to ensure that the … lions are safely back,” the Kenya Wildlife Service tweeted.

Lioness and cubs

A caller told wildlife officials the animals were seen near a Nairobi hospital, and included a lioness and cubs.

CNN”s Robyn Kriel and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.