PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — All of the exotic animals that were freed from the wildlife sanctuary in Zanesville, Ohio are accounted for after police and officials spent most of Wednesday trying to track them all down.
Officials say 48 animals were shot, including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions, but a few were captured and are now being cared for at the Columbus Zoo.
Officials say Terry Thompson, 62, opened their cages and then took his own life.
There is no way to put a price tag on the value of the animals lost in Ohio. Some are endangered species and that has fueled debate about whether the animals should have been killed.
“At the zoo, we do animal escape drills. We practice because something could go wrong, but we practice like one animal got loose,” said Henry Kacprzyk, the curator of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. “Forty-eight animals is a lot of animals and nothing has ever happened in the United States.”
But that was only part of the problem in Ohio.
“There was no way of knowing which animals would lay down, which animals would run all night, where these animals would end up and that’s why we made the decision,” Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.
Some question whether the animals could have been saved, but Kacprzyk says a tranquillizer may take eight minutes to work and perhaps twice that long if the animal is agitated.
“You may only get one shot to be honest with you and you have to make a decision,” he said. “If I shoot it with a tranquilizer and it gets away and hurts somebody, how do I live with that?”
Tim Harrison is director of the Outreach for Animals. His biggest concern is that these animals are in people’s homes.
“I’ve been taking tigers out of people’s basements, alligators out of people’s basements, cats loose in neighborhoods – like a cougar loose in downtown Dayton – all kinds of crazy animals, all kinds of venomous snakes,” he said. “It just seems that everybody wants to get one. It’s monkey see, monkey do kind of situation. You can buy a cobra, but you can’t buy common sense.”
Sometimes, you have to make a hard decision
“If you were in a position to take this animal down because it’s a public threat and you didn’t, and it killed a little child or somebody, you’d answer the question of “Why not?” And it’d be something you’d have to live with for the rest of your life,” Kacprzyk added.