A toddler who was visiting the animals at a circus with her family in north-western France was scratched by a lion from inside its cage, but in the end needed only a few stitches to treat her injuries.
The child and her parents went to the Claudio Zavatta Circus on Sunday in the Norman port city of Ouistreham and were looking at the animals in their cages not far from the big top when the incident happened about 3pm, French newspaper Ouest France reported.
The 16-month-old girl wander away from her parents and walked past a security barrier that way around the animals' cages. It was at that point a lion stuck a paw out of its cage and scratched the girl. She was taken to the hospital with to be stitched up.
"It could have been much worse, and despite what you may have read the lion didn't grab the child," circus director Hubert Bonnet told French magazine L'Express. "It was very lucky. When a 150 kilo lion scratches someone it's going to be bad."
It’s not the first case of animals hurting people at a circus in France, though fortunately in this instance no one was killed.
The Local reported on the bizarre example in September 2013 of an 84-year-old Frenchman who was struck as he played the French bowling-type game pétanque by an escaped circus elephant.
After busting out of its enclosure the animal hit the elderly man with its trunk, slamming him to the ground. Some witnesses report that the man was also trampled under the elephant’s feet. The unidentified man later died from his injuries.
On Monday a court ruled the elephant's owner Max Aucante, the director of Cirque d'Europe, was not guilty of manslaughter because the only safety failure regarding the animal was a lack of supervision. The court decided that was not enough to render him guilty of gross negligence, French paper France Ouest reported.
Despite pleas from animal rights advocates to send the elephant to a reserve in Africa, it remains on the job.