Escaped lion fuels new calls for circus animal ban in Italy.
The adult male lion roamed around the seaside town of Ladispoli for about six hours on Saturday, before being sedated and returned to its cage at the nearby Rony Roller Circus.
Local residents stayed indoors while the lion was on the loose, with several online videos of the animal strolling around the town's deserted streets going viral.
News of the escaped lion made headlines around the world, sparking much criticism on social media over the fact that animals are still performing in Italy's circuses.
A police investigation is underway into how the eight-year-old lion, called Kimba, managed to escape from the circus.
Lion tamer Rony Vassallo claims that he found the enclosure unlocked, suggesting that somebody had deliberately let the animal loose.
There was nobody injured by the escaped lion, and Vassallo insisted that Kimba posed no threat to the public.
On Sunday dozens of animal rights activists demonstrated outside the circus in Ladispoli, demanding that the government implement a circus animal ban drafted several years ago but postponed until 2024.
"It's time to implement a ban on animals in circuses" - said Francesco Borrelli
of the Italian green party Europa Verde - "The images of Kimba's capture are not worthy of a civilised country."
One of Italy's foremost animal rights organisations, LAV
, also renewed its calls for a ban on circuses with animals following the incident in Ladispoli.
It is estimated that there are still around 2,000 animals used in circus shows in Italy, of which a third are horses and domesticated animals, according to Italian news reports.
In a statement
, the Italian branch of the International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA) said the case of the escaped lion highlights "the dangers of circuses with animals from a public safety point of view" as well as "the discomfort of poor creatures forced into captivity for entertainment".
Following the lion's capture on Saturday night Ladispoli mayor Alessandro Grando said: "I hope that this episode can stir some consciences, and that we can finally put an end to the exploitation of animals in circuses."