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Leopard That Survived Zanesville Massacre Euthanized

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COLUMBUS, Ohio— A spotted leopard that was one of just six exotic animals that survived the Zanesville exotic animal massacre in late October was euthanized after a fatal injury at the Columbus Zoo Sunday, according to zoo officials.

Dozens of lions, tigers, bears and wolves were shot by deputies after Terry Thompson released them from their cages then killed himself on Oct., 18, 2011.

The surviving animals were taken to the Columbus Zoo.

Sunday, a zoo keeper was moving one of the spotted leopards through an opening during routine feeding and cleaning, state officials said in a news release.

But the leopard darted back through the opening as the door was coming down, and it struck the leopard on the back of the neck.

The leopard suffered a spinal cord injury, fell unconscious, stopped breathing and was euthanized, the release stated.

“It’s an incredible tragedy. Our team is heartbroken at the loss of any animal and we grow attached to this animal as we do every animal on our property,” Dale Schmidt, president of The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said to WBNS-TV in Columbus.

Officials said the leopard may have other health conditions that contributed to its death.

State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey wrote in a statement:

“There is a normal amount of jostling that occurs when zoo animals are moved as part of their routine, and incidents like this with enclosure gates are not unheard of. Healthy animals don’t typically have a problem with that. However, because this animal had a history of being improperly fed, its bones were left in a permanently weakened state. In addition, it had a previously undetected genetic malformation to its cervical vertebrae (that was only detected after the incident by x-ray) which also left its spine extremely weak. Unfortunately, the combination of these factors meant that the leopard wasn’t able to survive an injury that would have had little effect on a normal, healthy animal.”

The zoo still continues to care for other surviving Zanesville animals, including another spotted leopard, a black leopard, two Macaques and a brown bear.