Sunday, 6 November 2011

Insanity in Zanesville

1 baboon, 2 wolves, 2 grizzly bears, 3 mountain lions, 6 black bears, 8 lionesses, 9 lions, 18 Bengal tigers. Indeed a rich count for an impressive menagerie. Unfortunately, all shot dead in Ohio.

For the benefit of those readers who may be unaware: Vietnam war veteran Terry Thompson committed suicide, possibly spurred on by piling debts and a disintegrating marriage. But before this act, he did something unexpected- he released his 55 'exotic' animals from their cages in his Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville and opened the fences. The result was utter chaos, resulting in the police hunting and killing the 49 animals listed above. The surviving six animals (3 leopards, 2 celebes macaques, and a grizzly bear) are being quarantined at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Google image 'Ohio animals' and you will find quite a many photos of the surreal carnage (which gave me nightmares for a long time). What struck me was how the animals were shot down dead by the police. Majority of the population seemed to justify this action. After all, the deputies didn’t have tranquilisers, it was close to nightfall, and it wasn’t exactly in a middle of nowhere location. But even the use of tranquiliser darts didn’t seem to have much effect- some animals were killed since they charged at them (after all, tranquilisers does take a while to act); others were killed since they might lose sight of the tranquilised animal which might revert to normalcy when the tranquiliser wears off. Yet, I would maintain that the death count could have been significantly lowered by using strong tranquilisers and/or by strategically disabling them. Is the trigger-happy nature so ingrained that the only solution was this carnage?

More disturbing is the fact that a sizeable number of animals were donated to Thompson by owners who found them difficult to manage as adults. And what is much more disturbing is the high incidence of such ‘exotic’ animal owners in the US.
And many are the other questions: whatever spurred Thompson to make such a reckless action? Was it to spite his neighbours and the authority? Or was it just to give them some freedom as his final act? If he was deep in debt, surely selling a few acres of his farm should have been a better option than suicide? And what did these animals do to deserve such a bloody fate?


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