A lion spent more than five hours roaming the streets of an Italian town on Saturday after escaping from a circus.
Residents of Ladispoli, a seaside town near Rome, were warned by the local mayor, Alessandro Grando, to stay at home as police and circus workers attempted to catch the lion.
Videos seemingly shot by locals show the eight-year-old lion prowling along dark streets.
🦁Oggi un leone è scappato da un circo a Ladispoli!— LAV (@LAVonlus) November 11, 2023
Quinta fuga di un animale detenuto in un circo in un anno.
È ora di dire basta agli "spettacoli" con animali e che nessuno faccia male al leone! @g_sangiuliano altrui legge delega sul riordino dello spettacolo in tempi brevi! pic.twitter.com/BVGJvh9c5O
A police helicopter eventually tracked the lion to a field using an infrared camera, La Repubblica reported. Authorities continued to monitor the animal until vets were able to sedate it.
In a second Facebook post, Grando confirmed that the lion had been “sedated and captured” and would be returned to circus staff.
He also used the incident to call for an end to the use of animals in circuses.
“I hope that this episode can stir some consciences and that we can finally put an end to the exploitation of animals in circuses,” he wrote.
Local media said investigations into what happened would be carried out, but the circus operators suggested that the lion may have been released intentionally.
“We are victims of sabotage. We found the cage open and someone saw three people fleeing on foot,” they said, per La Repubblica.
Eight US states had “banned or restricted the use of wild animals” in travelling circuses as of 2022, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.