It is apparently no joke or publicity stunt.
A home video has been doing the rounds on the internet in Italy showing the country’s tourism minister playing with… her pet tiger.
Michela Vittoria Brambilla and the big cat are seen together in a back yard playing ball. She then strokes and caresses the young male, who responds as if he were a contented domestic tabby.
The minister has not said where the tiger came from, only that it was “saved from a terrible fate”.
A well known rights campaigner, Brambilla is founding president of the Italian League for the Defence of Animals. She says Italians are sensitive about the conditions of domestic animals, but have some way to go in respecting those that live in the wild.
The tiger, adds Brambilla, symbolises the battle against the exploitation of animals in circuses.
“We do not want to obliterate the art of circus, but it is not acceptable any more that in a country like Italy there is room for circuses that force animals into physical and psychological torture, to live in travelling cages, to (be in) shows that are surely not educational for children,” she said.
The animal may have to compete for Brambilla’s affection. According to her CV, the minister shares her home with 15 dogs, 30 cats, four horses, two donkeys, seven goats and 200 pigeons.