Forty-nine animals are killed and six were rescued after the owner of an animal preserve released his exotic animals and killed himself. It played out Tuesday evening at the 73-acre Muskingum County Animal Farm at 270 Kopchak Road in Zanesville. Deputies found wild and exotic animals on the loose and the farm's owner dead in the driveway from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A news conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. NBC4 and nbc4i.com will provide live coverage on-air and online.
Officials said the owner, Terry Thompson, opened pens and cages before he committed suicide.
The farm housed animals including Bengal tigers, mountain lions, grizzly and black bears, primates and wolves. A total of 56 animals escaped. Six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions, 18 tigers and two wolves were killed by authorities.
Six animals were caught and transported to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: one grizzly bear, three leopards and two macaques (a breed of monkey).
One animal remains loose: a monkey that is carrying the Herpes B virus. According to Jack Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus zoo who was working with the emergency communications group, the monkey may have been eaten by another animal. Officials are still asking the public to be on the lookout for the monkey. Consultants recommended to law enforcement that the monkey be shot and killed. The Herpes B virus is not harmful to the monkey but is considered extremely dangerous to humans. A bite wound by the monkey would be considered very dangerous.
"I'm sorry for what happened to these animals. But also for what could have happened to people. Let's hope this never has to happen again in any state. This is a tragedy for the animal world. It could have been a bigger tragedy for the human world," Hanna said.
"You cannot run from it. It doesn't see you as a human. It sees you as something fleeing, or something to play with," Hanna said.
There also were horses also being kept on the farm and officials said Wednesday afternoon that some of the wild animals were charging at the horses when deputies arrived.
Hanna said the animals that were captured will go into quarantine before being brought into the zoo.
The Columbus zoo reached out to other zoos for possible placement, but the animals still belong to Thompson's wife legally.
The zoo called in extra security after reports of death threats from people who are pro-animal rights. The Zanesville Chamber of Commerce also received a few emailed threats. The Wilds, a conservation center in Zanesville, was helping out as well, Hanna said. No human injuries were reported.
Schools in the area were closed at the recommendation of Lutz Wednesday. Lutz said he would recommend to districts that they can open school for Thursday.
Someone attempted to steal the carcass of one of the big cats Tuesday night. The animal was recovered, and the person was taken into police custody. Charges will be filed, the sheriff said.
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