Tigers maul circus trainer to death

A young male Sumatran tiger sits in a new $19.5million Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego's San Pasqual Valley May 21, 2014. The soon to open exhibit will house six tigers and features waterfall feed ponds, rocks for climbing and tall crass for catnaps. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) - RTR3Q8WI
Photo credit: Reuters

A circus trainer has been mauled to death by four of his tigers in a savage attack in Italy.

World-famous tiger trainer Ettore Weber, 61, and his animals were part of an Orfei Circus show called A Journey Through Five Continents.

But as he was preparing his tigers for their performance on Thursday night, one turned on him. The other three then joined in and starting mauling him, 'playing' with his body for half an hour before they could be driven off.

Weber was taken to hospital with serious injuries, including severe trauma to the spine, but died from his wounds.

The four tigers have been removed from the circus and taken to a nearby animal park.

Italian authorities have launched an investigation into his death.

The Anti-Vivisection League (LAV) has called for the tigers involved in the attack not to be killed.

"Tigers must be saved… and placed in an environment suitable for their natural needs," it said in a statement.