The Italian Almanac

siberian tiger

It's a Wild World

A rare Siberian tiger has been seized by police from the estate of a southern Italian mobster slain in a mafia war. The tiger had lived for 16 years in a cage on the estate near the town of Monteroni di Lecce in Puglia belonging to Lucio Vetrugno, a 55-year-old who was shot dead.

Vetrugno, nicknamed 'Lucio of the Tiger' by fellow criminals, was a convicted member of a powerful clan of Puglia's Sacra Corona Unita, Italy's fourth major mafia syndicate after Sicily's Cosa Nostra, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta and the Neapolitan Camorra. The tiger, who eats around 30 kilos of meat a day, will be transferred to a shelter for big felines near Bologna.

It is the latest in a string of examples of Italian mafiosi showing a liking for dangerous exotic animals. In December police bust a Camorra drugs ring that used a large white python to protect their cocaine stash, months after a similar case of a snake being used to guard narcotics. In September 2009 police caught a Naples crime boss with a large crocodile he was said to have frightened extortion victims with if they showed any reluctance to pay up.