A famous circus animal trainer has died after four of his tigers mauled him to death while he prepared for a show in Italy.
61-year-old Ettore Weber was reportedly killed by the animals at around 7.30pm last night, July 4, at the Circo Ofei – Italy’s most famous circus – near the city of Bari.
It is believed Weber was rehearing for his act when one of the tigers knocked him to the ground, the other three big cats then pounced on him and continued to maul the trainer.
According to La Gazzetta Del Mezzogiorno, the tigers played with Weber’s body for around half an hour after he had died, as stunned medics looked on, unable to do anything. Fellow circus performers reportedly tried to drive the animals away, but to no avail.
Police are now conducting an investigation into the attack, trying to determine the events leading up to the attack and the attack itself.
Authorities at the scene say Weber suffered a number of serious injuries, including severe trauma to his spine.
The attack reportedly took place in the hours before the circus show on Thursday was due to start. It is not clear what will now happen to the animals involved, though according to reports they have been transferred to the Zoosafari in the Brindisi area.
Circo Orfei were performing a string a dates in Bari, from June 15 to July 14. It has not yet been announced whether the shows will continue or not.
Earlier this year, a new bill in the UK banned circuses from using wild animals in their performances.
In a statement provided by the government, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good.
Today’s announcement follows other measures we have taken to strengthen our position as a world leader on animal protection.
The movement away from using wild animals (animals that are not usually domesticated) in circuses is happening in other countries, too.
In Germany last month, a circus phased out the use of wild animals completely, and are now using holograms instead.
Circus Roncalli is the world’s first holographic circus show, utilising hologram technology to give audiences a visually stunning spectacle, with performers able to do things previously impossible, such as the holographic animals performing side by side with acrobats in the ring.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.