Ohio police shot 48 exotic animals, including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions, on Wednesday after Terry Thompson, owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville threw their cages open and committed suicide.
48 animals were killed after an all-night hunt that extended into Wednesday afternoon. Six others – three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys – were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal still on the loose.
Zanesville police shot 48 exotic animals, including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions, after Terry Thompson threw their cages open and committed suicide
Among dead animals were six black bears, two grizzlies, a wolf, a baboon and three mountain lions. They were being buried on Terry Thompson’s farm, according to officials.
Jack Hanna, TV personality and former director of the Columbus Zoo said:
“It’s like Noah’s Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio.”
Jack Hanna defended the Zanesville sheriff’s decision to kill the animals but said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic. There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.
“When I heard 18, I was still in disbelief,” Jack Hanna said.
“The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is.”
Dead animals have been buried on Terry Thompson's farm
As the hunt dragged on outside of Zanesville, population 25,000, schools closed in the mostly rural area of farms and widely spaced homes 55 miles east of Columbus. Parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors.
Flashing signs along highways told motorists, “Caution exotic animals” and “Stay in vehicle”.
Sheriff’s deputies were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquillizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.
Sheriff Matt Lutz said: “These animals were on the move, they were showing aggressive behavior.”
“Once the nightfall hit, our biggest concern was having these animals roaming.”
Sheriff Matt Lutz would not speculate why Terry Thompson killed himself and why he left open the cages and fences at his 73-acre preserve, dooming the animals he seemed to love so much.
Terry Thompson, 62, had repeated run-ins with the law and his neighbors.
The sheriff’s office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals escaping onto neighbors’ property and also said that terry Thompson had been charged over the years with animal cruelty, animal neglect and allowing animals to roam.
Terry Thompson had gotten out of federal prison just last month after serving a year for possessing unregistered guns.
Ohio police are investigating the possibility that Terry Thompson, the owner of the Zanesville reserve where 48 wild animals escaped from, may have opened their cages and then committed suicide.
Terry Thompson, owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville was found dead by authorities having his body surrounded by a number of aggressive animals.
It was reported that almost 30 wild animals have been shot and killed until now and the residents were warned to stay indoors.
Ohio police are investigating the possibility that Terry Thompson, the owner of the Zanesville reserve where 48 wild animals escaped from, may have opened their cages and then committed suicide
48 tigers, lions, wolves, giraffes, camels, cheetahs and bears bolted after their cages were left open in the reservation.
Sheriff Matt Lutz said: “We are not ruling out any possibility right now about who let the animals out of the cages and what happened to Mr Thompson. We are waiting on the results of the preliminary autopsy to establish cause of death.”
It was also reported that Terry Thompson, 62, who lived at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, had chimps in cages in his home but these were still locked up.
Jack Hanna, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium director emeritus told FOX News Channel: “The animals are hunkered down in trees right now, like you would be if it were raining.
“That’s good and bad, because the weather would reduce the danger for local residents but make the recovery of the animals more difficult.
“I’m hoping that by tonight we can account for most of these creatures.”
Authorities in Zanesville, Ohio, urged nearby residents to stay in their houses as wild animals were spotted wandering up and down highways in the area
Authorities in Zanesville urged nearby residents to stay in their houses as animals were spotted wandering up and down highways in the area.
Terry Thompson was released from prison three weeks ago after serving a one-year term for weapons offences.
According to the New York Post, Terry Thompson was convicted of cruelty to animals and placed under house arrest for six months in 2005.
A Zanesville veterinarian who inspected some of Terry Thompson’s animals described him as “an animal collector”, although Thompson claimed he was operating an animal shelter.
Terry Thompson was also said to be involved in fashion photography, and once provided lion cubs for use in a photo shoot with model Heidi Klum in 2007.
Police refused to give details of all the animals that had been shot but said bears and wolves were among the 30 animals killed.
Sheriff Matt Lutz said: “These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa.”