Pittsburgh Zoo’s Curator Weighs In On Zanesville Situation

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.

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  • Carla

    I feel that Matt Lutz should LOSE HIS JOB after his handling of this terrible situation. If the Sheriff’s office was called to the property regularly (as Lutz states), why did the officers not have tranquilizer guns readily available as a precaution??? These animals did not ask to be on this farm and did not ask to be set free by their owner. This farm was in the county’s jurisdiction and Lutz should have been prepared for the worst case scenario. None of these animals should have been slaughtered!!

  • Mayor of GBD

    better to risk the loss of human life, right? WHY should the local police have been equiped to tranquilize 48 animals? Would you be willing to pay for the equipment and train them? There is a shlef life on the drugs, so every so often you have to toss it out and buy new stuff. Which car do you keep it in? Way to many variables. They did EXACTLY what they should have done…PROTECT THE CITIZENS OF THEIR JURISDICTION, so get over it.

    Kill em & grill em.

  • Sam

    Mayor of GDB I believe your response is VERY inappropriate! You sound like an uneducated individual who doesn’t think about an animals worth! How would you feel if you were an endangered animal who was let out of their cage and did what was natural to them and that is roam? You wouldn’t want to be gunned down because you were going by your instincts, correct? Bengal tigers as well as other animals that were killed are endangered and correct me if I am wrong but isn’t poaching illegal? Poaching being huntilng the animal illegally and out of season and also correct me if I am wrong but there are no seasons for hunting exotic animals in Ohio? These animals were poached and the individuals who killed them should be prosecuted for their actions.

    • sandy mason

      i agree

  • sandy mason

    bad karma murdering those animals, spiriatully detramental to the human spicies.

  • sallyb

    Because the governor of Ohio did not follow through on some sort of restriction on exotic animals in private homes, this situation happened. Now Ohio will be known as the state that had this horrendous event happen.

  • Chris

    Old News! – have any of you been paying attention to this at all? They did not use tranquilizers because:
    1). They didn’t have them in the quantities they would have required
    2). Even if they did, they only had one hour of daylight. The darts take time
    3). They had NO IDEA what they were up against in terms of # of animals
    4). Their #1 job is to PROTECT THE PUBLIC from harm

    The police decision has been defended up and down by experts everywhere. Sorry the animals had to die, but give it a rest folks.

  • Bea

    The worse part of this was the graphic photos of the dead animals, displayed on TV over & over. I was appalled at KDKA for doing this. It served no purpose, the story was detailed enough on air without them. That in itself took away from the worth of these animals. Would you show a pile of dead people? I think not.

  • dose of truth

    WAAAAAHHHH Simba no!!!! I will never watch Lion King again…

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