Columbus Zoo Returns Surviving Exotic Animals To Widow

UPDATED: Friday May 4, 2012 9:00 PM

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has returned five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed suicide.

Marian Thompson retrieved her two leopards, two primates and a bear from the Columbus zoo on Friday. One spotted leopard that was also sent to the zoo had to be euthanized earlier this year.

The animals have been held at the zoo since October. That was when Thompson's husband released 56 exotic animals from their Zanesville farm in eastern Ohio before killing himself. Authorities were forced to shoot 48 creatures.

Neighbors, such as Linda Polk, said that they were concerned about the animals’ return to Zanesville, 10TV’s Danielle Elias reported.

“It isn’t safe,” Polk said. “Down through the years, too many things have gotten loose.”

Diane McElfresh said that she had seen the close connection between Marian Thompson and the animals.

“I’m glad for her,” McElfresh said. “I know they’re like her children.”

Thompson had previously tried to get the animals back, but a state-issued quarantine was placed on them.

Ohio's agriculture director lifted the order on Monday. Medical results released last week showed all five animals are free of dangerous or infectious diseases.

Barbara Wolfe, a veterinarian at the zoo, cared for the animals since they arrived at the zoo in October, 10TV’s Glenn McEntyre reported.

“It’s been a very difficult time for everyone,” Wolfe said. “It’s been political and emotional, and it’s a very complicated issue, obviously.”

Wolfe said that Thompson thanked her Friday.

“I was talking to her about how they’ve been cared for, what they’ve been fed, what issues we’ve had with them,” Wolfe said. “She thanked me. She was thankful we took care of them.”

Zoo Chief Executive Officer Dale Schmidt said that he was concerned about the animals’ return to Zanesville.

“We feel like we’re losing one of our family, and they’re going off to somewhere we’ll never see them again, and we’re concerned for their welfare,” Schmidt said.

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