A circus lion escaped and was seen roaming around heavily populated streets for hours in a suburb of Rome on Saturday before it was sedated and captured by authorities.
Alessandro Grando, the mayor of the seaside town of Ladispoli, on the western fringe of the Italian capital, confirmed on Facebook just before 10:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET) that the lion had been caught, hours after the alarm was raised.
The operation to bring the animal back into captivity involved Italy's state police, local police, the Carabinieri military police force and local volunteers. Grando said it had been "hours of great learning."
Video shot from a police helicopter using an infrared camera showed the lion, named Kimba, strolling around a grassy area. Mobile phone video posted to social media, which has not been verified by NBC News, shows the animal quickly but calmly walking down a residential street, ignoring the cars and houses on either side.
Rony Vassallo, the animal handler at the Rony Roller Circus, told the Agence France-Presse news agency that 8-year-old Kimba was not a threat to the public.
"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,” he told AFP.
Grando added that he hoped the incident helps ends the practice of circuses' keeping animals in captivity.
"I hope this episode can raise some conscience and that we can finally put an end to animal exploitation in circuses," he said.
While using live animals is still legal in circuses in Italy, it has been banned in more than 20 European countries. Lawmakers in the lower house of Italy's parliament have passed a law that would ban live animals in circuses, but it has not yet been implemented.
Kimba’s journey comes four months after a rather more chaotic hunt for an escaped lion in Germany. After hundreds of police officers spent hours searching with thermal imaging cameras and helicopters, police finally admitted that there was, in fact, no lion and said grainy mobile phone video that triggered the panic most likely showed a wild boar.