Australia's largest animal circus has made its way to Port Macquarie with a new comedy act involving lions, despite concerns about 'fanatic' protesters.
Stardust Circus is expected to display it's range of acrobats,clowns, animals and the new African lion act from February 7 to 17 at Port Macquarie Westport Park.
The show also features flying trapeze acts, a 10 person springboard event, clowns and aerialists as well as performing monkeys, ponies, goats, dogs and pigs.
Matthew Ezekial, who has trained lions for nearly 20 years and performs in the new act as 'Huckleberry the clown' said it was all part of modernising the circus.
"The act itself is a new format for lions, it's not the old sit and stay kind of stuff,” he said.
“It is a more free range lion act with a lot of comedy throughout.
"The lions are still doing their natural behaviours just in a fun and meat-rewarding way.
"Free range is more dangerous because you have six lions roaming around freely doing what they want, but it is also more relaxing for them.
"It shows nature behaviours more and doesn't look so put on... it's just them doing what they do.
"We cop a lot of bad press, so I want to try and change that considering we are the last (circus) in a long tradition."
Travelling shows featuring animals have previously drawn criticism in town, with about four members of the public holding a silent protest at the Lennon Bros Circus in October last year.
The Port Macquarie News understands protesters are expected to picket this event as well.
Ringmaster and media liaison Adam St. James said the Circus undergoes continual monitoring by Government and Industry regulators for animal welfare and has a AAA rating.
"We're the oldest touring family circus, only one with lions in Australia," he said.
"If anyone has concerns, I'm happy to answer any questions."
Mr Ezekial said Stardust receives pressure from ‘fanatics’ who protest at events, and has decided not to bred more lions after their current 25th generation.
"It is a lot of work to have lions, its constant 24 hours a day, everyone is getting older and it's a fight to keep them so we have said this is our last lot," he said.
"It is sad, a very sad day and it upsets me but this is the way the world is.
"The majority of people support us, the minority very few don't – I just say to people, come and see for yourself don't let them bully you or tell you what to do."
Mr Ezekial said animal welfare is the main priority at the circus with multi-level trailers, yards for exercise and around-the-clock monitoring.
"The circus changes just like everything else, it adapts. The lions have fully air-conditioned trailers and the monkeys have air-conditioned and heated trailers," he said.
"They are multi-leveled, the animals can spend a majority of time in the yard or the trailer if they want to.
"We do put them away at night due to mugs, people who jump the fence and try to climb in with them."
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