THE circus is back in town.

And fans of the Big Top now have an added opportunity to enjoy the thrills, spills and excitement thanks to Circus Mondao extending its stay in Bury.

The event, which began last night was originally scheduled to end its run at High Bank on Walshaw Road on Sunday.

But thanks to popular demand, further performances have now been pencilled in until the following Sunday.

And bosses have hit back at animal rights campaigners who this week called for local people to boycott the circus because of its use of animals.

According to the Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS), Circus Mondao is one of six still to use animals.

Meanwhile, ringmaster Petra Jackson told the Bury Times: “We came last year with our show and we were so well received we decided to return this year with our brand new production.

“This year, we bring our new exotics act which features our lovely, rare white female bactrian camel and a brown male camel, two llamas, mule, donkey and our two zebras.

“I think the public will be pleased to see how our animals are trained and to see what a long, slow process it is and not believe what the animal rights people say.”

Other traditional circus attractions such as clowns, hand-balancing and other skills are also featured.

Petra has defended the circus’s use of the animals in response to an attack by CAPS campaigns manager Craig Redmond.

He said: “It’s time to end the outdated practice of forcing animals to perform for our amusement.

“In the 21st century, there can be no excuse for continuing to allow the treatment of animals in this way.”

But Petra responded: “First and foremost, we’re not forcing any animals to perform. If we are, does that mean someone at home teaching their dog to sit is doing the same?

“Our animals are in tip top condition. They are our pets. We’re inspected at least once a month by local animal welfare officers, the RSPCA and the Government vet.”

Performances take place until this Sunday and then from next Wednesday until Sunday, September 21.