Circus slaves rescued from piranha tank act

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Police have closed down a circus in Southern Italy after two teenage Bulgarian girls were forced to swim with piranhas in front of a paying audience.

The circus which toured the Campania region south of Naples is known as ~il circo degli orrori " the circus of horrors - was shut down and the three men responsible for running it were arrested people trafficking and keeping the sisters and their parents in slavery, according to a report in The Guardian.

The girls were forced to enter a tank containing eight piranhas and then made to lie down in a glass coffin filled with tarantulas. They were paid just 100 Euros a week to work up to 20 hours a day.

During one performance the shivering 19 year-old girl tried to climb out of the piranha tank only for the circus owner Enrico Ingrassia to push her head back in. This proved too much for one member of the audience who reported it to the police. The police subsequently visited in plain clothes to film the ~acts and later arrested the men.

The girl s 16 year-old sister was covered in snake bites from the snakes she was forced to drape over her body and had bruises where the snakes had constricted around her reports claim. The girls and their family are claimed to have been kept in the back of an animal transport lorry and were fed only left-overs.

Prosecutor Mariella De Masellis, who led the investigation, said: "In essence, these poor children were forced into slavery for this circus. These people were slave drivers and forced the children into acts with dangerous animals.

In order to subdue the piranhas, the temperature of the water was kept at near freezing. Little focus has been placed on the cruelty surrounding the fish which are generally not violent and rarely go in to Hollywood inspired ~feeding frenzies but are capable of inflicting wounds if cornered.

Forum member Azaezl found this footage of the story on YouTube following its broadcast on Italian television: