A menagerie of lions, tigers, bears, and other larger predators are stalking the streets of the capital of Georgia this week after heavy flooding released them from their cages at a nearby zoo. The city of Tbilisi looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie, but it is the animals running through the flooded capital that presents the real danger. Officials have advised residents to stay in their homes on Sunday while police, animal handlers, and special forces hunt down escaped animals.
“Not many animals are still on the loose but it is difficult to say how many are still out there,” Mzia Sharashidze, a spokesperson for the Tbilisi Zoo, told NBC News.
Officers spent the better part of Sunday tracking down animals and attempting to capture them safely. Due to possible stress caused by the flooding and their unexpected escape, many of the large predators acted aggressively towards humans. Officials warned residents that the animals have gone without food for some time and may be hungry or irritated. So far at least four lions, three tigers, six wolves, and two jaguars have been found or shot dead by police. The Associated Press reported that one of the lions killed by police was a young male named Shumba, one of the zoo’s most popular attractions. A small pack of wolves was also found roaming near a hospital and shot dead. Some residents have accused officers of using unnecessary force.
You can see footage of the animals below:
Animals more accustomed to watery environments seem to be doing better. Despite their reputation for being large and powerful animals, footage from Tbilisi showed several scenes of bystanders herding hippos out of the streets. Powerful tranquilizers were also employed to keep these massive animals docile. Also, at least one crocodile was seen swimming alongside cars attempting to exit the city while other animals, such as bears, have attempted to escape flood waters by climbing onto structures.
Officials say that while the animals may be dangerous, no attacks on humans have been reported. At any rate, recovering the zoo’s former denizens will take a back seat to rescue efforts, which understandably is the top priority. At least 12 people have died due to flooding-related causes. Concerning the escaped wildlife, authorities are most worried about a pride of five lions still unaccounted for.
You can get a glimpse of the destruction from this drone footage below: