STAWELL - Reports that lions escaped the visiting Lennon Bros Circus in Stawell have been exposed as a hoax.
Social network website Facebook went into overdrive on Wednesday night with rumours that a lion was on the loose around the town, with photographs even posted online.
Cheryl Lennon, manager of Lennon Bros Circus, said the reports are "far from the truth."
Mrs Lennon found out about the rumours yesterday morning after members of the circus were asked about the supposed escape when in the town's main street.
A caller rang Melbourne radio station 3AW's Neil Mitchell program, claiming to be 'Ash Lennon' from the circus and said the lions had escaped.
The caller gave out Mrs Lennon's personal phone number to the radio station and she took the airwaves to dismiss the rumour.
"I've clarified and confirmed that we have three lions laying here, catching a bit of sun," Mrs Lennon said.
Mrs Lennon believed the rumours had stemmed from the circus being cancelled Wednesday night due to bad weather.
"What has happened is that we had a show due to start at 7pm and it was cancelled due to the wind. The wind lifted up the front entrance, the back door frame lifted off and my ticket stall fell over," she said.
"We made the call to evacuate people purely for their safety. We let people know that it was because of the weather and fully refunded their tickets."
Mrs Lennon said if a lion had escaped, the circus would have let authorities know immediately.
"We certainly would be notifying authorities, such as the police and SES (State Emergency Service) first," she said.
This is not the first time the circus has had rumours about lions escaping from their enclosure.
Mrs Lennon told The Stawell Times-News it had happened to her brother-in-law when they visited Cranbourne 'but not to this extent.'
"A lady rang the council telling them a lion had escaped. It was far from the truth."
The circus re-assured members of the public the lions are not missing.
"Believe me, trust me - they're there. They're not going anywhere," Mrs Lennon said.