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A red panda loose in Belfast? Just imagine the film …

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Is there a better genre of news story than “animal loose in an unexpected place”? It’s the journalistic equivalent of a classmate running in and shouting, “There’s a dog in the school!”. You immediately assume all other news will have to be cancelled for the day while the headmaster/prime minister runs around the playground/British Isles trying to catch it with a big net. It’s a genre with a low bar for entry – as a rule of thumb, any “animal in unexpected place” story is newsworthy as long as you can imagine a Brooklyn cab driver in a live-action Disney movie doing a double-take, rubbing their eyes and saying, “Woah, an [animal] in a [unexpected place]? I better quit drinking,” upon seeing it. But every so often there comes a variation that lifts the genre into new and exciting places. This is no “monkey in Ikea”, “cat on a football pitch” or even “whale in the Thames” (RIP). No, today there was a red panda loose in Belfast.

Just let that sentence sit there for a moment. A panda. Loose. In Belfast. It’s impossible to hear it and not imagine the........

© The Guardian