Jack Hanna Urges Zanesville Animal Preserve Owner's Wife to Drop Fight for Surviving Animals

PHOTO: A leopard, one of six of the animals that were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo, a day after their owner released dozens of animals and then killed himself near Zanesville, Ohio, is shown.
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Wildlife expert Jack Hanna plans to block the wife of the Zanesville, Ohio, man who released exotic animals from his wildlife preserve before killing himself from taking the surviving animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

"I'm going to try to call her myself in a minute and discourage her from doing this," Jack Hanna, the zoo's director emeritus, said today on "Good Morning America," of Marian Thompson's announced plan to travel to the Powell, Ohio, zoo today to take the animals back.

Thompson's husband, Terry Thompson, released more than 50 wild animals from his preserve into the Zanesville community last Tuesday, sending the community into a frightening scare as schools closed and motorists were warned to stay in their vehicles.

Dozens of animals, including Bengal tigers, lions, wolves, monkeys and bears had to be killed by police. Police stalked the animals through the night Tuesday, and by Wednesday afternoon, 49 of the 50 animals were confirmed dead, ending a potentially catastrophic threat to people in the area.

Three leopards, a grizzly bear and two Macaques were the only animals that survived, and were sent immediately to the Columbus Zoo, where they continue to receive around-the-clock care.

Hanna said the animals are recovering well but should not be returned to Thompson, or anyone else, until more facts are known.

"Right now we're trying to figure everything out," he said. "Right now I have people going out trying to figure out where did she get these animals and where are they going."

"She says they're not going back to where they came from and, obviously, we would not allow that," he said.

Marian Thompson visited the surviving animals, which she called "her children," last Thursday and desperately pleaded for their return.

"I told her that the animals were hers, when I tried to console her," Hanna said on "GMA." "The animals are legally hers but not until I know where they are going."

Thompson told a zoo official that she is especially bonded with the surviving pair of primates. She also revealed to Tom Stalf, a zoo official who helped transport surviving animals to zoo, that when she was still living at the farm the surviving female Macaque would sleep with her.

"This is a person that's very bonded to the animals," said Stalf. "She wanted to see them and make sure that they were doing OK, and she missed them."

Hanna said he also doesn't want the animals released while legislators in Ohio are in the midst of creating new legislation that would tighten the state's notoriously loose laws surrounding ownership of exotic animals.

"We're trying to pass the laws in Ohio," he said. "We're doing our best now to make sure this never happens again in the state of Ohio."

On Friday, Gov. John Kasich ordered a temporary crackdown on private ownership of exotic wild animals. The study committee will meet again next week in order to reach their Nov. 30 deadline to draft permanent legislation.

Hanna met with the study committee on Monday to urge for tighter regulations but has stopped short of advocating a complete ban.

"No more lions and tigers and bears as pets," he told The Columbus Dispatch.

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