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Escaped Zoo Tiger Kills Man In Central Tbilisi

  • RFE/RL's Georgian Service

A white tiger that escaped Tbilisi zoo during catastrophic flooding over the weekend killed a man near a downtown square of Georgia's capital.

The animal was subsequently tracked down and killed by special-forces troops, police said.

The attack came one day after zoo officials were quoted as having said that all but one of the facility's 18 large cats, a jaguar, had been killed in the June 14 flooding.

The zoo housed eight lions, seven tigers, and three jaguars.

Reports initially identified the animal that killed the man as a lion, and it is unclear whether the shooting of the white tiger means the last of those big cats is dead.

Hundreds of animals died in their pens or were washed free from the zoo in the flash flood that killed at least 19 people, swept away buildings and cars, and devastated infrastructure in Tbilisi's central districts.

A municipal worker stands near dead animals at the flooded zoo.

A municipal worker stands near dead animals at the flooded zoo.

Six people are still missing.

Authorities estimate the damages caused by the flooding at almost $44 million.

Georgian prosecutors on June 17 issued a statement saying investigations had been launched into possible negligence in construction planning that underestimated risks in the low-lying area.

The reports and images of hippopotamuses, lions, wolves, bears, and other animals on the loose or sprawled over flood wreckage added a bizarre chapter to the deadly flooding. Experts from abroad have been enlisted to help the Tbilisi zoo cope with the damage and rebuild.

Some of the animals were killed by the floodwaters, some were shot by police, and others were captured and returned to their cages.

Tbilisi police told reporters that the white tiger attacked the man on June 17 when he entered a depot at the Laguna Vere swimming pool near the zoo.

Georgian Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri and Tbilisi Zoo Director Zurab Gurielidze were reportedly on the scene when the tiger was shot.

Other animals, including a hippopotamus, had been corraled with the aid of tranquilizers.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and the chief of the Anticrisis Council, Mindia Janelidze, had earlier given the all-clear, saying all of the animals had been removed from city streets.

Janelidze said on June 17 that the previous statement had been based on information provided by the zoo authorities.

With reporting by apsny.ge, Interfax, TASS and Imedi
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