The Scottish Government is to consider banning the use of wild animals in circuses following "overwhelming" public support to outlaw the practice.
After months of consultation, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead confirmed he would consider the "best way forward" to address the controversial issue in light of the response from the public.
The announcement follows a government report that showed 98% of the public wanted to see a ban introduced, effectively ending the use of performing wild animals in Scotland.
The report was the result of a public consultation the government held between January and April 2014, obtaining 2043 responses - the results of which were published on June 26.
Here's what they found:
Mr Lochhead said: "The results of this consultation show overwhelming support for a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds.
"As this would require legislation I am now considering the best way forward and will set out our plans shortly."
While there are currently no circuses based in Scotland which use wild animals, touring attractions including the Great British Circus, Peter Jolly's Circus and Circus Mondao have all used animals in the past.
The controversial issue resurfaced after Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart raised concerns about five big cats held in captivity at a Fraserburgh farm last year.
Three tigers and two lions spent the winter at the Circus High School animal training centre in St Combs, before heading off to perform in Wales - a practice Mr Stewart dubbed "barbaric".
Why shouldn't animals be used in circuses?
One of the most sociable animals on the planet, the African elephant will roam great distances foraging for food in its natural habitat.
But a 2006 study conducted by animal welfare charity Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) found the massive animals were being kept in small enclosures a travelling circus in Ireland.
With their legs wrapped in chains, the animals were allowed only a few minutes of exercise a day in the Big Top.
In 2007, an investigation carried out by the University of Aberdeen's Mike Radford found that there was "little evidence" to show that the welfare of circus animals is any worse than animals kept elsewhere in captivity.
The Radford report, compiled on behalf of DEFRA's Circus Working Group, also said there was "not enough scientific evidence" to ban the use of circus animals under animal protection legislation.
But animal welfare charity Scotland Roars has shared concerns not only on the health and wellbeing of the animals themselves, but also on public safety.
Representative for Scotland Roars Malena Persson said: "Circuses cannot provide for the needs of wild animals. The continuous pattern of transport and performances cause very high stress and boredom and is exactly why animals get dangerous.
"That puts human safety as a concern - we've seen cases of elephants escaping and hurting audience members, we've seen lions or tigers turning on their trainers and mauling them in front of audiences."
Pictured: Tiger held in captivity in travelling circus visiting Scotland, credit Born Free
Persson continued: "Reports show that very often the enclosures are too small and the vehicles are tiny. Ten hours on the road is not good for any animal who is not able to move.
"Also when you come to the enclosure, you'll see the animals pacing back and forth - this is not an animal that has a good life.
"There are most definitely poor health issues associated with captivity. There are videos showing baby elephants trained with ropes and bullhooks - animals are getting physically hurt by circuses.
"A long term effect people don't necessarily think about is depression - it happens to animals as well as people. Life in captivity is a big issue for animals."
At present Scotland could be considered a progressive nation in terms of it's legislative approach to animal welfare - it is believed fewer than 50 animals have been used by circuses in Scotland in recent years.
In 2006, seven circuses using animals were in operation in Ireland - they held total of 102 animals and travelled on tour for up to ten months in the year.
After almost a decade of animal welfare campaigns and reduced Government funding, just four Irish circuses which use animals remain in operation.
In England, the use of wild animals in travelling circuses was banned in 2013, and animal welfare campaigners have called for action "as soon as possible".
"The result of the consultation in Scotland makes me hopeful," added Persson. "At the same time this is something we've been working on for a very long time.
"It takes a long time for anything to happen, and we would call for a ban as soon as possible. Scotland is progressive and full of ethical people.
"The sooner we see a change in legislation the better."
Main image credit: Born Free