Italian Circus States Escaped Lion Posed No Threat

Circus Handler Claims Escaped Lion Near Rome Posed No Public Threat
On Sunday, the handler of the lion that escaped from a circus near Rome reassured the public that the lion did not pose a danger. The seaside town of Ladispoli experienced a lockdown for over five hours on Saturday as authorities, including police, veterinarians, and circus staff, worked to track, sedate, and capture the lion. Videos circulated by Italian media captured the fully-grown lion roaming through dark residential streets. Rony Vassallo, responsible for the animals in the Rony Roller Circus, emphasized that the eight-year-old lion, Kimba, did not exhibit aggressive behavior during the incident. Vassallo expressed concern about potential harm to the animal due to fear or excessive enthusiasm from onlookers. Campaigners are calling for a ban on wild animals in entertainment in Italy.
Close to the red and white striped main tent, where preparations for the afternoon show were underway, the recently recaptured lion paced inside his cage, occasionally letting out roars.
Sabotage Suspected?
Vassallo mentioned that Kimba was only lightly sedated and quickly woke up, with veterinary examinations confirming no adverse effects from his escapade.
However, the handler, whose family operates the traveling circus, expressed that they were all "very shaken and very tense" after the escape, which he believed was not accidental.
While Vassallo did not directly address reports of sabotage, such as a forced lock, he mentioned an ongoing investigation. He noted that such incidents had never occurred before, describing them as "very strange."
He demonstrated that the door to the metal cage opens inwards, secured with a sliding bolt and a lightweight chain with a small padlock.
Born and bred in captivity, Kimba, along with his two brothers, Zeus and Ivan, and sister Maya, has spent his life in confinement. The circus boasts nine big cats, including tigers, along with other acts involving elephants, camels, horses, and even bison.
Animal rights activists strongly criticize the circus for keeping such wild creatures, considering it cruel. While over 20 European countries have banned or heavily restricted the use of animals in circuses, Italy has not yet implemented such measures. A proposed law, initially expected this year, has been delayed to 2024, according to the LAV campaign group. They estimate that nearly 2,000 animals are held in circuses across Italy.
The incident in Ladispoli not only underscores the risks associated with circuses using animals from a public safety perspective, as stated by animal rights group OIPA, but also highlights the plight of animals compelled into captivity for entertainment.
Ladispoli's mayor, Alessandro Grando, who had urged residents to stay indoors during the lion's escape, is advocating for a change in the law. He hopes the episode prompts a reevaluation of the exploitation of animals in circuses.
Responding to criticism, Rony Vassallo, the circus handler, asserted that critics lack an understanding of the reality of how animals are treated in circuses and the rigorous checks carried out.
In the local neighborhood, residents voiced support for the circus and expressed more concern about the well-being of the lion than public safety. One resident, Barbara Rosolino, remarked that despite initial fear, the videos revealed the lion's good behavior, indicating his desire to return home and his evident fear during the incident. 
Valentina Manning

Valentina Manning


A film and TV production professional currently working as an Associate Producer creating short, doc.