Dozens of exotic animals were killed after they escaped from a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio including grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, tigers and lions. Sherriff Matt Lutz claimed responsibility for giving the order to shoot the animals rather than tranquilize them, as animals tranquillized at night become frenzied and in a residential area, the goal was to protect human life. “It’s like a bad dream,” said the sheriff.
Owner Found Dead
The owner of the zoo, Terry Thompson had been found dead at the zoo with the gates open and it was believed that he had committed suicide. The escape of the animals from the 73-acre Muskingum County Animal Farm combined with the issue of light as night approached meant that officials gave the order to kill rather than contain the animals. Forty-eight out of the 56 animals were killed.
This included 18 Bengal tigers, one wolf, six black bears, two grizzly bears, 17 lions, one baboon, and three mountain lions. The situation with the tigers was the most tragic, according to wildlife expert and US nature TV host Jack Hanna, who said that the species only had about 1,400 left in the world, so a loss of this many was extremely difficult. One wolf had been found dead after possibly being hit by a car instead of shot and a monkey has still not been found.
The rest of the animals had been tranquilized by staff from the nearby Columbus Zoo, who have claimed the six animals they captured—three leopards, two monkeys, and one grizzly bear. The zoo is one of the best in the country. Mr. Hanna is the former director of Columbus Zoo, and he said the sheriff had made the right call. “You cannot tranquilize an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger. If you do that the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides and then we have [police officers] in danger of losing their life, and other people,” said the expert.
Mr. Hanna himself shot a gray wolf and a black bear, the latter as the animal was charging him, killing it after only a single round as it was only two metres away. A neighbour of Mr. Thompson had said her neighbour had been a “colourful character” who had been in some legal trouble regarding permits and animals escaping.
Police officers had to arrest several people after they tried to steal some of the animals. Residents of the town were urged to stay indoors and school was cancelled in the morning on Wednesday as they wanted to avoid children waiting at bus stops with wild animals on the loose.