A lion that escaped from a travelling circus in the Italian town of Ladispoli roamed the streets for nearly six hours on Saturday, sparking panic among residents.
Alessandro Grando, the mayor of the town, announced on Saturday that an animal had escaped and warned people to be careful and not to go out until further notice. He added that the fugitive had been “immediately tracked down” and an operation to capture him was being led by circus staff and police. Ladispoli is north of Rome on the Mediterranean coast.
Meanwhile, shocked locals began posting footage on social media of the lion casually walking the streets, expressing fear and anxiety.
After almost six hours, Grando reported that the predator had been tranquillized and corralled. According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, even a helicopter was used to locate the lion.
The animal initially refused to eat meat containing sedatives. Veterinarians later managed to hit it with a rifle shot containing a tranquillizer, local media reported, but this was not enough to stop the lion and it escaped again. After another two hours, the animal was finally found asleep and taken back to the circus.
The mayor pointed out that he had not allowed a travelling circus with animals to come to the town but explained that it was not up to him to make such decisions, adding that he “cannot forbid circuses with animals from coming.” He noted that an attempt to ban them in 2017 failed, as the town lost an appeal to the Regional Administrative Court and also had to pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees. “Until the regulations change, we can’t do anything else,” he concluded.
Following the incident, the International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA) said the lion’s case “highlights the danger of circuses with animals from the point of view of public safety” and the discomfort of “poor creatures forced into captivity to be used for entertainment.” OIPA called for a ban on circuses with animals, pointing out that performances with only acrobats and clowns can be educational and showcase human talent.