Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What if a Wolf Should Come Out of the Forest?

A dead lion on the Ohio game preserve.
Zanesville, Ohio is basically under lockdown this morning after more than 40 animals escaped from a preserve. The owner was found dead, and the animals' cages were all open. So far authorities have shot and killed about 25 of the animals, which included lions, bears and wolves. Four local school districts have cancelled classes.

My first impression when I heard this story was that someone had murdered the preserve owner had been murdered by someone who then thought it would be a good idea to let the animals out, perhaps to cover his tracks. Upon reflection, I don't know why I thought this. Certainly that was not in any way what the media reported. But I think all of us, at these moments, become "experts" based on the many crime novels and cop TV shows we've been exposed to over the years.

One article this morning, however, reports that initial indications are that the owner killed himself. This would imply that he released the animals himself in an unusual twist on a murder-suicide.

I will not pretend to understand what causes someone to decide not only that they would be better off dead but that they should take other people with them. I suppose I vaguely understand, although of course do not agree with, people who believe they've messed up their and other's lives so badly that it's best to put everyone out of their misery at once.

But this type of case is different. In this situation, someone decided that others have made their lives unlivable, and that the others need to be punished with death at the same time that they themselves stop living. That's not just depression, that's a level of rage I simply can't imagine.

This is of course just one facet of the story. These animals did nothing wrong at all and will now be killed to protect human life. I get it, it's probably necessary, but it's wrong. And kids are locked in with their parents out of fear of a wild animal eating them. It feels like a scene out of "Peter and the Wolf." The kicker is that this is the second death of a wild animal keeper this year in this area -- another man choked to death in what the press delicately termed a "voluntary sex act" in July. I'll spare you the details.

If we went with that fictional crime expertise we all seem to posess, this would all be part of a bizarre plot, perhaps on the part of radical animal rights activists, to murder wild animal preserve owners and free the animals. The defense would try to convince the jury that the action was necessary to save the lives of hundreds of animals. Perhaps Jessica Fletcher would crack the case after her nephew was falsely accused by the bumbling local law enforcement authorities.

Unfortunately, this is real life, and real life can be just plain weird sometimes. I hope more of these animals can be tranquilized rather than killed now that daylight is here, and I hope that happens before anyone gets hurt. I also hope we all remember that, no matter what incomprehensible thing he did, this owner was someone's son, brother and/or friend, and they are hurting in private somewhere today. Coming to grips with this is not going to be easy.

* The title of today's post comes from Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf," about a boy who encounters a wolf after being warned not to play outside. The link above is to a really fun version illustrated by Bono of U2 fame. It's my favorite, and proceeds benefit Irish Hospice.


Anonymous said...

There are many other questions that arise in this situation. How do we distinguish between these animals and the ones we see at the zoo. Why is one good and the other bad? Did they really all have to be killed? how do you explain this madness to a 6 year old? I suppose you don't want to go into the issue of why the authorities don't have some sort of regulation. They should at least know who is keeping what in their back yard. If communities control chickens in the yard why not Bengal tigers?

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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
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