Six exotic animals saved from carnage settling in at Ohio zoo
The two monkeys were easily transported from the Muskingum County Animal Farm, but the four larger and more dangerous animals had to be sedated, Doug Warmolts, director of animal care at the zoo, told The Times. All are acclimating to their new diets and recovering nicely, he said.
"They are doing well," he said. "We had a close watch on them to make sure they came out of the anesthesia, but by early evening they were up and moving around." He added: "They are calm. They are not angry or aggressive; they are just being very quiet."
The animals were let loose this week when Terry W. Thompson threw open the cages and slashed open the pens at his makeshift zoo, letting all the animals loose before turning a gun on himself. Authorities are still searching for a motive, although there are some unfolding suggestions that he was in deep debt. In all, authorities killed 49 animals, including 18 tigers and a baboon. The six animals now at the Columbus Zoo are the only ones who were saved.
Their fate is unclear. Thompson's wife, Marian, arrived at the zoo this afternoon for what was described as an emotional visit with the animals, which she regarded as pets and a part of her family.
"She was probably here for about an hour," Warmolts said. "I think she was very attached to them." He said she gave no indication whatsoever as to what drove her husband to do what he did.
Authorities say the animals could theoretically be returned to her if she proves she can adequately care for them. But any attempt to gain possession of the animals would come amid the current bright spotlight on her farm, as well as on Ohio. The state is facing widespread criticism that it has failed to protect exotic and wild animals.
The six surviving animals are being held in an isolated area, away from the public. It is unclear whether they will ever be placed on public display. "Right now, they just need a period of quiet," Warmolts said.
The zoo has been flooded with callers from around the country asking about the animals' welfare, and offering to help defray the costs for their care. A special Web page has been set up, and about $25,000 had been raised by Thursday afternoon.
"The amount of contact we're received has been overwhelming; it's been tremendous," Warmolts said.
He hazarded a guess as to why so many people were reaching out, looking for a way to help.
"I think it's the magnitude of it -- the number of animals. It's just shocking," he said. "It's the reason people come and are attached to zoo, because they have an affection, an affinity to animals in the wild. When you look at this situation you can't help but have it tug at you."
He added: "It's still very raw."
Photo: One of three leopards seized from an Ohio compound, now being held at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Credit: AP Photo / Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Grahm S. Jones