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.
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.”
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.