Exotic Animals Slaughtered in Ohio After Escape, Keeper’s Suicide

[Updated throughout]

Zanesville, Ohio was host to a hallucinatory scene of slaughter on Wednesday after an animal preserve owner freed 56 exotic animals, including tigers, lions, monkeys, mountain lions, and grizzly bears, and then apparently committed suicide.

As of Wednesday evening, six of the animals had been captured, and forty-nine were shot to death by police, including 18 endangered Bengal tigers. A lone monkey — possibly infected with the Herpes B virus — remained on the loose.

The monkey was cheered on by a parody Twitter account, as is now seemingly required for all high profile animal escapes.

Zanesville was immediately put under lockdown after the body of Terry Thompson was found and animals including “cheetahs, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, lions, a white Siberian tiger, camels and giraffes” escaped.

County Sheriff Matt Lutz called the missing creatures “mature, very big, and aggressive,” and said police had no choice but to use lethal force. Legendary animal trainer Jack Hanna, former director of the nearby Columbus Zoo, said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic, since there are only about 1,400 left in the world.

It’s like Noah’s Ark, like, wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio,” Hanna said.

Thompson, 62, was recently released from federal prison after serving a year on weapons charges. He had previously been convicted of a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge and had frequent run-ins with neighbors. Angie McElfresh, who lived near Thompson’s farm, told the Associated Press that releasing the animals before shooting himself “could have been an ‘f-you’ to everybody around him.”

Animals Loose in Ohio: Town Under Lockdown [ABC News]

Schools close as lions, tigers, bears on the prowl in Ohio [CNN]

Lions and tigers shot in Ohio; owner freed them [AP]

Sheriff: 56 exotic animals escaped from farm near Zanesville; 49 killed by authorities [Columbus Dispatch]

Exotic Animals Slaughtered in Ohio After Escape, Keeper’s Suicide