Photo of a real zebra, via Wikimedia Commons

The circus isn’t the only eye-catching attraction involving animals coming to Baltimore this week.

Tomorrow, hours before the UniverSoul Circus runs its first show in a three-week stay at Security Square Mall, animal-rights group PETA is bringing out a “zebra” – presumably a naked human painted with zebra stripes – to walk around downtown to protest the traveling show’s use of live animals.

Hours later, the “zebra” and a “tiger” companion will lead another demonstration outside the mall at Security Boulevard and Belmont Avenue. The second protest will coincide with opening night for the circus.

An announcement from PETA says the group is carrying out the edgy protest to dissuade families from attending. Zebras are among several types of animal that UniverSoul uses in its shows, according to the group.

“UniverSoul Circus denies zebras, elephants, and other animals everything that’s natural and important to them—just for a few fleeting minutes of human amusement,” said Rachel Mathews, PETA Foundation associate director of captive animal law enforcement, in a statement.

Baltimore isn’t alone in getting both of these gem spectacles. Outlets in Charlotte and Newark, N.J., have also reported “zebra” sightings during UniverSoul’s 2017 tour.

Most of Baltimore’s circus-related attention this year has actually gone to the Ringling Bros, which came through the city from April 20-30 for a farewell stop before it shut down for good. The circus ceased operations after years of declining public approval for circuses showcasing animals held in captivity.

Ringling Bros. didn’t bring its elephants along this time around, which may explain the lack of any mostly naked human protesters around town at the time.

UniverSoul will be holding shows most days from May 31 through June 18 at Security Square Mall, right outside the city limits.

PETA’s first Wednesday protest is set for noon at E. Pratt and S. Calvert streets in the Inner Harbor. The second one is scheduled to happen during UniverSoul’s opening show, which starts at 7 p.m.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...