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.
At least 48 exotic animals have escaped or been set loose from the Muskingham County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio.
Some of the wild animals have been shot and killed by police after they escaped from an enclosure where their owner was later found dead.
The wild animals bolted after their cages were left open in a reservation which housed exotic animals including tigers, lions, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears.
Terry Thompson, the owner of the reserve was found dead by police at the farm.
Terry Thompson’s body was discovered on the ground and all the animal cage doors were open.
At least 48 exotic animals have escaped or been set loose from the Muskingham County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio
Ohio police did not reveal the cause of Terry Thompson’s death but said several aggressive animals were near his body when officers arrived and had to be shot.
The reserve owner, who lived on the property, had chimps in cages in his home but these were still locked up.
Authorities urged nearby residents to stay indoors as wild animals were spotted wandering up and down highways in the area.
Police refused to give details of all the animals that had been shot but said bears and wolves were among the 25 animals killed.
“These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa,” said Sheriff Matt Lutz.
The sheriff described the escaped animals as “mature, very big, aggressive” but a keeper at the park had told them the reserve’s 48 animals had been fed on Monday.
Sheriff Matt Lutz added that police officers were patrolling the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars, not on foot, and were concerned about big cats and bears hiding in woodland.
Until now, there are no reports of injuries from residents.
It was reported an increasing number of phone calls made by locals who saw wild animals on local roads.
Caretakers from Columbus Zoo Ohio were at the scene in the hope of tranquillizing and capturing the rest of the animals so no more have to be killed.
Meanwhile, at least four school districts in the area have cancelled classes until the animals are rounded up.
According to Sheriff Matt Lutz, the authorities main concern is protecting the public.
“Any kind of cat species or bear species is what we are concerned about. We don’t know how much of a head start these animals have on us.”
Laura Jones, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which usually deals with native wildlife like deer, said wildlife officers were helping the sheriff’s office to cope.
According to statistics, the state of Ohio has some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.
Ohio requires permits for bears but doesn’t regulate the ownership of animals like lions and tigers.