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Lions, Tigers, Bears, Wolves, and a Hippo Run Wild in Tbilisi After Floods Damage Zoo

Severe flooding in the capital of Georgia has killed at least 12 people and freed dozens of animals from the city’s zoo.

by Gillian Mohney
Jun 14 2015, 3:25pm

Photo via EPA

Officials in the Georgian capital Tbilisi are scrambling to recapture dozens of zoo animals, including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and a hippo, after a massive flood swept through portions of the city this weekend and freed the creatures from their enclosures.

At least 12 people died in the floods, including three zoo workers, according to the Associated Press. One of the zoo workers killed was Guliko Chitadze, who lost an arm in a tiger attack just last month.

As officials tried to assess the damage Sunday morning, they also had to search for the freed zoo animals. One hippopotamus that had made it to a main square in the city had to be shot with a tranquilizer dart before being recaptured. 

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Officials warned residents to stay inside as wild animals roamed the city streets. Pictures and video footage from of the scene showed a bear cub on the second story ledge of a building trying to avoid rushing water below. At least one lion was killed in the flooding, and six wolves were seen near a children's hospital, according to the New York Times.

"Not all the animals who ran away from the zoo have been captured. Therefore, I want to ask the populace to refrain from moving about the city," Mayor David Narmania said.

Other footage showed a crocodile cruising down a flooded street in a scene that resembled something from the film Jumanji.

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A local newscaster also broadcast video of the zoo animals, including a mud-caked tiger roaming the streets looking disoriented.

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It's still unclear exactly how many animals were lost in the flooding because large portions of zoo remained underwater as of Sunday afternoon, zoo spokesperson Khaati Batsilaishvili told AP.

News agency AFP cited another zoo spokesperson as saying that 20 wolves, eight lions, and an unspecified number of tigers, jackals, and jaguars had been shot dead by special forces or were missing. "Only three out of our 17 penguins were saved," she reportedly said.

Follow Gillian Mohney on Twitter: @gillianmohney

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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