A TRAVELLING circus at the centre of an animal rights storm in Wirral has extended its stay after what staff described as an “explosion” of visitors.

Peter Jolly’s Traditional Circus pitched up in Upton on July 23 for a series of shows featuring lions and tigers.

Protests have been held outside the showground in Saughall Massie Road and social networking sites flooded with angry comments.

Despite this, Anthony Beckwith – speaking on behalf of circus owner Peter Jolly – told the Globe they have been “turning people away”, prompting them to extend their run until Sunday, August 10.

As well as being at the centre of a heated debate over the use of live animals, the circus is currently being investigated by Wirral Council after concerns were raised about its licences.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Following discussions with Peter Jolly’s Circus and an inspection earlier this week, the council is investigating matters relating to it not having the required authorisation in place for regulated entertainment.

“Recorded music can only take place with an authorisation from the Licensing Authority. The exception to this is if the recorded music is incidental to other activities taking place which do not require authorisation. Investigations into the matter are ongoing.”

The Globe contacted the circus on Friday who denied they were operating without all of the required licences.

Mr Beckwith said: “We are members of the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain and they pay for all of our music licences.

“The council came out to see us this week and they went away happy – we have all of the licences required.”

While Mr Beckwith said the circus has been sold out on a number of performances, its time in Wirral has not been without incident.

Campaigners protesting against the use of animals have been turning up at the site on a daily basis with placards before shows.

Police were called to the showground on July 23 following reports that a hooded man had climbed the fence and was abusing staff.

While patrols have been stepped up in the area while the circus remains in town, a spokesman for the force said they have not been called to any “serious or critical” incidents involving the venue.

Last week, the circus defended its use of animals in its performances and said: “We don’t have animals from the wild, they are all bred within the industry. Our lions are British-born from several generations.

“If the lions didn’t receive full care we would not be able to have them in the show.

“There are people who have genuine concerns about how the animals are treated and we have an open-door policy to help calm their fears.”