A tamer has been mauled by a lioness as children and parents fled in terror – leading to calls to ban the use live animals in shows in Russia.
The beast twice clawed and sank her teeth into trainer Maxim Orlov after brawling with another lioness in the ring.
The tamer and other circus staff eventually fended off the big cat – called Vega – with poles but she caused injuries which required hospital treatment.
A pregnant woman reportedly suffered an epileptic seizure from shock after the show in Russia descended into mayhem.
Before Orlov was attacked two lionesses – Vega and Santa – were seen fighting aggressively in the ring in Moshkovo, Novosbirsk region.
Then Vega turned and pounced on Orlov, wounding his arm and leg badly while petrified guests ran away.
Witness Viktoria said: “The lionesses went berserk.
“When we ran away, there was a wild roar from the animals.
“The tamer was attacked.
“A pregnant woman had an epileptic seizure from fright.
“An ambulance was called.”
After the attack – the latest of many in Russia – there were calls for a ban on live animals in circuses.
The trainer – after being bandaged in hospital – insisted: “Cases such as today are very rare, but animals are animals.
“Vega is five years old and has been wayward since childhood.”
Vega will not perform again as a result of the attack, according to the trainer. “We will negotiate with the zoos to exchange her for a little lion cub,” he said.
He blamed the incident on the Ural Travelling Circus not working during the pandemic.
Footage of the attack has now been shared online, with viewers pointing the finger at the circus industry for using wild animals as entertainment.
Social media user Evgenia Lukyanova said: “How many similar cases before people stop seeing the suffering of wild animals as entertainment for children?”
Another, named as Natalya Amur, said: “This is torture of wild animals.”