5 exotic animals return to former home at Zanesville, Ohio, farm

Five exotic animals returned on Friday to the Zanesville, Ohio, farm from which they and their fellow creatures were released last fall. In an incident that sparked a national conversation about how to care for wild, exotic animals, their owner had opened their cages at his small zoo before killing himself.

The animals -- two leopards, two primates and a bear -- were turned over to the owner’s wife, Marian Thompson, on Friday morning in Columbus, Ohio; she then transported them to the farm, about an hour away.

In all, her husband, Terry Thompson, let 56 animals, including big cats and rare primates, out of their cages; authorities killed 48 on the grounds last fall. At least two animals are believed to have been eaten by other animals.

The surviving creatures -- three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a bear -- survived and were taken to the Columbus Zoo after the suicide. One spotted leopard was destroyed in January.


The state and Marian Thompson have been fighting over the other animals’ fate, with state officials recently agreeing to turn the animals over to Thompson. Tests showed that the creatures were healthy, and it was decided that the state had no authority to continue to keep them.

Images broadcast by local television stations showed Thompson arriving at the zoo at mid-morning in a truck pulling a silver horse trailer. Two of the crated animals were loaded into the truck along with a steel cage. The primates, loaded in doggy carriers, rode in the cab.

The truck arrived back in Zanesville around 12:30 p.m. local time.

The return seems to mark an end to the saga that began Oct. 18, 2011, when Terry Thompson freed the animals then took his life.

The incident led lawmakers to reexamine Ohio’s rules on the care and feeding of exotic pets. A measure that would toughen licensing requirements passed one state legislative chamber and is pending in the other.


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