Circus lion wandered streets of Italy's town before being captured
Residents of Ladispoli, near Rome, told to stay at home before animal was sedated and captured
ROME (Web Desk) - A lion prowled the streets of an Italian seaside town for several hours after escaping a local circus, prompting campaigners to call for Italy to ban wild animals in entertainment.
Alessandro Grando, the mayor of Ladispoli, near Rome, had told residents to stay at home while police and circus staff sought to catch the animal, which was eventually sedated and captured.
Videos later published in Italian media, apparently taken by locals and not authenticated by the Guardian, showed the adult lion walking through dark and deserted streets.
But Rony Vassallo, who is responsible for the animals in the Rony Roller Circus, said that while the thought of confronting a lion would make most people fearful, eight-year-old Kimba posed little danger.
“He met with people in an environment he wasn’t used to ... and nothing happened. He didn’t even for a second have the instinct to attack a person,” he told AFP at the circus site. He said his fear had been “that someone could have harm the animal, out of fear, or excess enthusiasm”.
In a Facebook post at about 10.30pm (2130 GMT), more than five hours after his message raising the alarm, Grando said the lion had been “sedated and captured”. “Now he will be taken in hand by the circus staff,” he wrote, thanking emergency services and volunteers who helped during “these hours of great concern”.
“I hope that this episode can stir some consciences, and that we can finally put an end to the exploitation of animals in circuses,” the mayor added. Anticipating residents’ complaints, he earlier said he had not authorised the presence of a circus with lions in the town, but that he did not have the power to block it.
Vassallo said Kimba had been only lightly sedated and had woken up almost immediately, while examinations by vets had concluded he bore no ill-effects from his excursion.
But the handler, whose family runs the travelling circus, said they were all “very shaken and very tense” after the escape, which he believed was not an accident. Vassallo said he had personally checked on the cage an hour before the lion went walkabout, and “everything was in order”.
He declined to comment on reports of sabotage, including that the lock was forced, saying an investigation was under way. But he said it had never happened before and it was “very strange”.
Kimba was born and raised in captivity, alongside his two brothers, Zeus and Ivan, and sister Maya. The circus has drawn the ire of animal rights campaigners, who say keeping such wild creatures is cruel.