Two tigers escaped from a big cat shelter near a small Dutch village and were tracked by police for hours before being subdued with tranquilliser darts.

Residents in the village of Oldeberkoop, population 1500, were warned to stay indoors during the hunt for the animals.

Police launched a search with a helicopter and a veterinarian with a tranquilliser gun after the big cats got out of their enclosure at the Felida centre. One tiger was hit with a dart earlier in the operation but it did not have the desired effect.

Newspaper De Telegraaf reported that the two tigers appeared to have escaped through a gate that had accidentally been left open.

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Police said that the animals did not leave the land on which the centre is located, though it did not have secure fences so they felt it necessary to put out the alert.

The centre receives big cats from circuses and zoos, treats them, and works to place some in a larger shelter in South Africa.

According to the centre's website, its residents include two lions, eight tigers, a black jaguar, and a leopard.

Other Dutch police forces appeared to be watching their colleagues' tiger-catching antics with glee, tweeting mocking pictures of their officers with baby goats or putting their feet up in a pair of leopard print shoes.

- Reuters