A lion was captured on film roaming the streets of an Italian seaside town for several hours after escaping from a nearby circus before being seized by local authorities.
The adult lion, named Kimba, was seen wandering through residential areas of Ladispoli, near Rome, for several hours after his escape from the Rony Roller Circus.
Videos taken by locals and posted on social media then later published by Italian media, showed the adult lion walking through dark and deserted streets.
Alessandro Grando, mayor of Ladispoli, near Rome, through a statement warned residents to stay home while police and circus staff sought to catch the animal.
Anticipating residents’ complaints, he said he had not authorized the presence of a circus with lions in the town, but that he did not have the power to block it.
A team of local and state police officers, alongside circus staff, the Carabinieri police force and other unaffiliated volunteers was assembled to search for the rogue big cat. A helicopter was flown over Ladispoli to shoot infrared video in the hope of spotting Kimba in the streets.
The lion was eventually found and recorded walking alongside a grassy area.
About five hours after the search commenced, around 10:30 p.m. local time, Grando said the lion had been “sedated and captured.”
“Now he will be taken in hand by the circus staff,” said the Mayor while thanking emergency services and volunteers who helped during “these hours of great concern.”
Circus owner Rony Vassallo said the lion was doing fine, and that investigations were under way to find out how he escaped.
“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,” said to Vassallo AFP.
It not yet known how the lion escaped its enclosure. Vassallo said he checked the lion’s cage an hour before Kimba was reported missing and found everything in order. He however refused to comment on speculations of sabotage.
Ladispoli’s mayor has since used news of the escaped lion to advocate for an end to the use of exotic animals in circus performances.
“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.
In Italy, there is no ban on the use of exotic animals in circus performances. Kimba is one of nine big cats, including tigers, at the Rony Roller Circus.