Photo coutesy of the Otago Museum
Thursday 30 March 1978 was a night of high drama in Lawrence, Central Otago, with 'Carlos' Circus' in town.

At about 8.20pm, following the late show, two of the three circus lions left the ring and found the door of the exit tunnel open. The three year old animals, called Sultan and Sonia, made their quick escape out into the football field where the circus was based.

The public crowded round to see the action as trainers tried to recapture the lions and a veterinarian tried to tranquilise them. But, the risk to the public was just too great and sadly, the decision was made by the circus owner for Police to shoot Sultan. A startled Sonia ran off into the dark. She was chased and tracked down later that night, her fate sealed.

There were only a few minor injuries to the public, which included a scratch on the face of a young boy as Sonia made her escape. It was a sad end to the night but authorities had found it impossible to keep the public away from the scene to allow them to make an ordered recapture of the lions.

Carlos' Circus gave the two lions to the Otago Museum and a public appeal then raised funds towards the $5,200 required to allow Sultan and Sonia to be mounted for display. The circus' only condition was that the names of Sultan and Sonia were to appear on the display.

Our 'Lawrence lions' remain one of the most popular exhibits for visitors today and you can see them in Animal Attic.

Reference 20.08.2012   Otago Museum
Otago Museum Animal Attic link