Of all the calls received by the Metropolitan Police this year, few will have been as perplexing as one reporting a cheetah roaming the streets of London.Newly released records reveal that last January a worried member of the public dialed 999 after appearing to see one of the big cats prowling the borough of Barnet.It was one of 17 apparent sightings of big cats reported to the Metropolitan Police since 2005. Moor at home in Africa: Cheetahs can reach 70 mphCredit:Gallo Images / Alamy Stock Photo There have been occasional sightings of females with cubsJonathan Downes, Centre for Fortean Zoology Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Others include reports of nine panthers, two tigers, two wild cats, two big cats of an “unidentified” species and a further cheetah, spotted in Bexley in February 2013.Normally found in Africa, the mammal can run at speeds of 70 mph and is the fastest land animal on the planet.Across the UK more than one big cat sighting is reported to police every week amid fears the beasts are breeding in the countryside. Police in England, Wales Northern Ireland alone logged 455 sightings between 2010 and 2015.Notorious sightings include those of the Dartmoor Devil, a leopard believed to be behind attacks on cattle, the Beast of Bucks, a puma which was said to attack a dog in High Wycombe, and the Hull Hell Cat, a puma “spotted hiding in a field near Hull”.Experts believe the wildcats are loose in the countryside because people released them after keeping them as pets, or having escaped from zoos.Norfolk has had the most reported sightings, with 57 being logged.Jonathan Downes, head of the Centre forFortean Zoology, has said he believes big cats such as leopards and pumas must be breading.“There have been occasional sightings of females with cubs,” he said.Neighbouring county Suffolk has had 26 reports of big cats.A black panther has repeatedly been seen stalking the countryside in both counties.In Devon and Cornwall there have been 28 sightings – and five reports of farm animals being killed by big cats.In December 2012, two sheep were found dead with claw marks on their backs near Torrington, north Devon.A ram was killed in the same month at Buckfastleigh on the edge of Dartmoor.A month before two sheep had their throats ripped out near Axminster, also in Devon, according to police logs.