Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…

I realize the world series is going on and the Raiders just traded 14 first round picks and a bag of Doritos to the Bengals for Carson Palmer, but I want to focus on something outside the realm of sports and get serious for a change.

Anyone who’s paid any attention to the news in the past 24 hours has probably heard about the senseless waste of life that occurred in Zanesville yesterday.  For those of you that don’t know (probably no one since this is all people are talking about) a man killed himself, but not before releasing a plethora of exotic wild animals.  In the process, Zanesville was sent into a state of panic as schools were cancelled and people were encouraged to stay inside and avoid being eaten.

While the whole thing is a tad bit silly on the surface… I mean honestly, a real life game of Jumanji broke out in Zanesville, all that was missing was Robin Williams… the humor is quickly lost when you take a look at the reality of the situation and how it all played out.  At the end of the day, 49 exotic animals were senselessly slaughtered in an attempt to save the public.  The final tally, 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, 6 black bears, 2 grizzlies, 3 mountain lions, 2 wolves and a baboon.  A second baboon is believed to have been eaten by one of the large cats.

I understand why this was done.  It had to be done.  These animals couldn’t be allowed to roam free and spread out for an extended period of time.  The loss of life could have been even more tragic had a child run across the path of a large, hungry lion.  Could you imagine the horror and outrage if those headlines would have been released?  Authorities did what they had to do.  As an animal lover, there is still a bit of disgust and remorse.

My only question is why did all the animals have to be shot and killed?  Were tranquilizers not readily available?  Were there not enough tranquilizers available?  Was there no place available to store the animals once they were tranquilized or once they awoke from their dart induced slumber?

The one explanation I’ve heard is that due to poor visibility and lighting conditions authorities would be unable to shoot the animals with tranquilizers.  If that’s the case, how were they able to shoot them with pistols and rifles?  Isn’t a tranquilizer gun and regular gun one and the same?  I admit I’m not a “gun person” but that seems a bit weak.  More likely, authorities had to take care of the situation as simple and quickly as possible.  Shooting and killing is a lot quicker and a whole hell of a lot simpler than shooting, tranquilizing, transporting and storing.  Again, I’m not bashing authorities for what they did.  I’m simply saying that I wish something else could have been done.

This situation also hits close to home because I attended Benedictine High School.  I was a Benedictine Bengal from 1998 through 2002.  I was there for the inception of the Benny the Bengal program.  Each year, the school receives a Bengal tiger cub to use as a mascot , recruiting tool, and educational tool to take around to local grade schools during football season.  Once the tiger become too large, sometime in December or January, it is returned to the program and given to a zoo or wildlife reserve where it can breed and hopefully increase the world’s Bengal tiger population.

It wasn’t uncommon to be walking the halls in between classes and have Benny walking beside you on his leash.  The priest in charge of Benny would regularly bring him around to classes and allow him to wander the room unleashed.  This was both awesome and terrifying at the same time.  If you stopped paying attention, Benny would stalk you from the back of the classroom before initiating a surprise attack from behind on your ankle or calf.  It never hurt since it was the equivalent of being mauled by a labrador puppy, but it was still terrifying.  It’s one of my favorite memories from my high school experience and something I love talking about almost 10 years later.

My point being, in four years of hands on experience and memories involving one of these animals I have a deeper appreciation for them.  Knowing that 18 of them were slaughtered thanks to someone who obviously was not in a proper state of mind eats away at me.  Throw in the fact that there are about 1400 left on the entire planet and the situation becomes even sadder.  It’s a total shame.

Regardless, what’s done is done.  It happened and there’s no getting around it.  Thankfully, the authorities in Zanesville were able to handle the situation and prevent them from being any worse than it already was.  They deserve a round of applause for that.  Now let’s just hope they can do something prevent anything like this, or worse, from ever happening again.

Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my… Oh my, indeed.

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