A lion which escaped from a circus near Rome has been caught and sedated after it was found prowling the streets of a residential neighbourhood.
It took authorities seven hours to capture the male big cat, named Kimba, who slipped out of the Rony Roller circus in the coastal town of Ladispoli on Saturday.
Kimba escaped an initial capture attempt after a rifle-fired sedative failed to put him to sleep at around 3pm, local media reported.
Police and vets continued to track the animal while he wandered among houses, but didn’t get another chance to sedate him all afternoon.
Footage shared on social media shows Kimba walking down a road while a woman watching from her balcony is heard saying: ‘Mamma mia!’
At 8.30pm the lion disappeared into reeds along the bank of a river running through Ladispoli and was only found after a police helicopter using infrared technology detected his heat signature.
Raffaele Bisegna, a contractor deployed to fire the sedative rifle, described the terrifying moment he had to approach the lion.
He told La Repubblica: ‘He was at 80 meters, I approached to 35 and fired the shot.
‘When the lion saw me he roared and tried to run away. I hit him on the move, on the back.
‘The possibility of shooting to kill had been raised but we risked everything to prevent this from happening.
‘Our rifles have a maximum range of 30 meters. I shot at 35 meters, beyond the potential of the vehicle. It was the shot of a lifetime.’
‘After the shot, the lion fell back into the waters of the canal, but was soon identified thanks to the GPS installed on the dart.’
Hours after issuing a statement warning people to stay inside their homes, Ladispoli’s mayor Alessandro Grando, announced the area had been secured.
In a statement, he said: ‘The lion was sedated and captured. Now it will be taken over by the circus staff.
‘Thank you State Police, Carabinieri, Firefighters, Local and Provincial Police, ASL and all the volunteers who served during these hours of great learning.
‘I hope this episode can raise some conscience, and that we can finally put an end to animal exploitation in circuses.’
Mr Grando had reportedly received complaints about the circus being allowed to pitch up in the town.
Neither authorities or circus managers have commented on how the animal escaped its enclosure.
In a post on Facebook, the Rony Roller circus wrote: ‘Thanks to the entire city of Ladispoli for the patience and support given in these last hours.
‘Above all, a big thank you goes to the Mayor Alessandro Grando as well as to all the authorities and law enforcement agencies who did everything to bring Kimba home safely.’
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