This Time, There Was No Ark Waiting – The Sad Fate of Tbilisi Zoo
18 June, 2015
This Time, There Was No Ark Waiting – The Sad Fate of Tbilisi Zoo
“Yes, I cried… And I had plenty to cry about.” – Exclusive interview with Zurab Gurielidze, director of Tbilisi Zoo

As a result of the catastrophic flood that took place, Tbilisi Zoo was almost entirely destroyed. The sudden surge of river water also claimed the lives of three of its employees.

“I know for certain that the unwarranted killing of several animals did indeed take place. There was no order that permitted such actions.”

Fleeing the onrush
of water, many of the zoo’s animals – many of them predators, managed to scale the wrecked fences and escape into the city. Some of them were tranquilized and returned to the zoo, while many others were shot dead in suspicious circumstances, causing uproar among international animal rights organizations. Remaining animals were found in a citywide search operation and returned to the zoo.
The attention of international news outlets was attracted to the hippopotamus Beglar, who got quickly nicknamed “the wandering hippo.” In order to escape the flood, Beglar went up to Heroes’ Square and proceeded to go for a walk around it, pensively munching on leaves from low-hanging trees. With the help of volunteers, and a few tranquilizer darts, the mellow-natured hippo was escorted back to his enclosure. However, for every such heartwarming moment, many tears were shed. The people could not hide their tears at the sight of half-buried bodies of their beloved animals who failed to escape the flood.
The territory of the zoo is still being cleaned up, with volunteers providing eager assistance. In order to find out more about the current situation, Georgian Journal interviewed Zurab Gurielidze, director of the Tbilisi Zoo:

“More than half of the zoo is destroyed, along with half of its animals.”

– The people who perished in this flood are a source of great pain for me and everyone else – especially considering that one of them was Guliko Chitadze, one of the zoo’s most loyal caretakers, beloved by everyone. Just recently, she survived a tiger attack and had her arm amputated, but returned to the zoo two days before the disaster took place to care for her four-legged friends… The bodies of her, her husband Malkhaz and our elderly employee Givi Dvali were found in the zoo when the water receded. My wife and I also were there, and ended up escaping by the skin of our teeth. We managed to climb on a roof and later, the zoo’s employees helped us get to safety.
As for the zoo itself, the elements have brought an immense amount of mud, debris, garbage and splintered trees onto its territory. Clearing all this will require a lot of time – weeks, perhaps. Our situation is extremely dire: More than half of the zoo is destroyed, along with half of its animals. We didn’t have time to sit down and assess the damage yet. The zoo and its inhabitants that my colleagues and I spent many years building, raising and caring for, were taken from us in a heartbeat by the flood. This is a tremendous loss not just for us, but for our entire country. I feel as if my life has been snapped into two halves – before the flood and after – and I do not know what to do now. Yes, I cried… And I had plenty to cry about.
We are slowly recovering from the shock now, and I can see the light of hope that promises us a new start. Both the government and our foreign colleagues are helping us. we have even drawn up an action plan. We were promised new animals, but where are we supposed to keep them now? I read about the alleged transfer of the zoo to a safer location, but no precise information is available yet.
Thankfully, animals that lived in the upper part of the zoo survived – the ungulates, the white lions and the leopards. Also, we managed to collect many survivors from the lower part after the initial shock had passed. For example, we found one of our hyenas – the poor thing had stuffed itself into some nook and sat there, mewling. We also found some of our penguins who became scattered all over the pool area, and the bear cubs. The Special Forces guys were vital in recovering some of the animals.

“Upon hearing my statement, everyone assumed that the danger had passed. Therefore, all that happened is my fault and mine alone.”

– What about the predators that managed to escape into the city? There was a statement made a couple of days ago that residents no longer had anything to fear, and yet today a runaway tiger killed one man and wounded another.

– To this I can say that the fault for this is entirely mine. According to information we had on June 16, the danger of encountering an escaped predator was no more, but patrol police still scoured the streets, just in case. However, they didn’t check inside buildings. Upon hearing my statement, everyone assumed that the danger had passed; therefore, all that happened is my fault and mine alone. At the moment, the search is on for another tiger, a hyena and a bear. The hyena is not dangerous, however.
I’ve already met with representatives of the police and talked to them about today’s incident. Now I have to go to the Prosecutor’s Office for questioning.

– People were outraged at the news of the death of a crowd favorite, white lion cub Shumba. Many claim that despite the cub being completely harmless, he was shot anyway.

– For me, this is an utter tragedy, plain and simple. So far I cannot say with precision what circumstances saw Shumba killed, but I promise the people that I will get to the bottom of it. I do not want to contribute to already rampant rumors, but I know for certain that unwarranted killing of several animals did indeed take place. There was no order that permitted such actions.

geotv.ge
Is this the future Tbilisi zoo?

According to the Georgian capital’s mayor, one of the points of his election campaign will be relocation of Tbilisi Zoo to the vicinity of Tbilisi Sea.
“Due to the zoo’s current territory sustaining extensive damage, suriving animals can only stay there for a limited time. Therefore, after finishing emergency works in the upcoming days, we are going to begin working on the project of Tbilisi Zoo’s relocation,” declared Davit Narmania.
This is what the project of the new Tbilisi Zoo looked like in 2014.

geotv.ge

White tiger attacks two people in Tbilisi, leaving one dead

A white tiger killed one man and injured another in a vicious attack that took place in Tbilisi on June 17. A special operation aimed at pacifying the animal was conducted, but the tiger was extremely aggressive, leaving the operatives no choice but to shoot it. The incident took place in one of the warehouses of the “Laguna Vere” swimming pool.
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