The hunt is on for a large black panther spotted by a member of the public in a park near the Los Claveles residential estate in La Cala de Mijas at around 7pm last night.
Since then, three other people have corroborated the sighting.
Suggestions that the animal was a large dog were ruled out after the man, who managed to photograph it on his mobile phone, told how he saw it climb a tree.
Several Guardia Civil environmental officers armed with tranquiliser guns were deployed to hunt down the animal, but the search was called off for safety reasons at nightfall.
A Guardia Civil spokesman said that the animal probably escaped from a private property.
The search operation resumed today at first light.