Nothing can beat the excitement of the zoo. Swinging monkeys can captivate just about anyone, and searching for animals camouflaged in their enclosures can be fun for hours. But not all zoo excitement is created equal, as the staff at one in England recently discovered.
During a nightly walkthrough at Dudley Zoo, a worker noticed something horrifying: one of the cage doors was wide open, and the animal inside had vanished into the park. Officials scrambled to find the lost creature, and they were willing to do whatever was necessary to stop the ordeal…
The Dudley Zoo in England is a happening spot for families all year round. The massive 40-acre premise is located on the grounds of Dudley Castle, and they have quite an amazing assortment of wildlife.
On any given day, visitors can walk along scenic wooded paths while lemurs hop freely all around them; or, they can check out the walrus enclosure and get up close and personal with the tusked mammals. But, there’s one particular animal who drew much of the attention.
It was an eight-year-old snow leopard named Margaash. The zoo was fortunate to have such a majestic and rare animal living there, and spectators seemed to always spend the most time admiring him.
Usually, it was kids that spend a long time staring into the snow leopard enclosure. And while the Dudley Zoo had a few leopards roaming the habitat, it was always Margaash that enjoyed the most attention.
While Margaash’s snow leopard buddies frequently laid low during most of the day, you better believe Margaash was ready to put on a show at a moment’s notice. His playful demeanor made him one of the zoo workers’ favorite animals.
Although Margaash had a friendly personality, he was a wild animal; workers always had to be on their guards when he was near. Employees had specific guidelines on handling every animal, but one evening, during a closing walkthrough, everything fell apart.
One employee frantically motioned for the others to gather around the snow leopard enclosure. Someone left the door wide open, and Margaash was missing. Workers looked around in a panic, unsure of where or when the snow leopard would appear.
They needed to find the animal quickly. Dudley Castle was a popular place, and not an ideal spot for a leopard to be on the prowl. It would quickly turn into a nightmare scenario if Margaash put his hunting skills to the test there.
Employees quickly contacted zoo security, who arrived stocked with tranquilizer guns and floodlights. No one was going anywhere until Margaash was located — and that was if he didn’t find them first!
After hours of careful searching, one of the workers miraculously spotted Margaash on the edge of the woodline, about to bound off the premises and into the wooded land separating the zoo from unprotected people. Workers had to make a move.
The zoo was well-stocked with tranquilizer darts for situations exactly like this one. It was too dangerous to trap the animal while it was worked up and nervous. They needed to sedate Margaash for everyone’s safety.
But strangely, it was the zoo’s vet who advised against the tranquilizer and suggested using an actual bullet instead. Night was quickly falling, and they couldn’t risk Margaash escaping into the woodlands. Zoo security heeded that advice. A single shot rang out.
Margaash’s death infuriated animal rights groups. Was there really no other option? Plenty of people were already on the fence about the ethical issues of keeping animals locked in cages, but Margaash’s death gave them a reason to call for change.
See, not only was Margaash an innocent animal who simply wandered out of his enclosure due to a zoo worker’s error, but researchers estimate only about 5,000 snow leopards even exist in the wild. With Margaash’s death, there was one less.
Julie Woodyer, the campaign director for a zoo inspection group called Zoocheck, was sickened by what happened. Snow leopards were shy animals, and since it was nighttime when Margaash escaped, streets wouldn’t have been flooded with people. She saw no reason why they used bullets.
However, Dudley Zoo director Derek Grove defended the zoo’s decision to kill the animal. Although incredibly saddened by the loss, he had the safety of innocent people in mind, and if Margaash injured anyone, he would’ve felt personally responsible.
Margaash will always remain a Dudley Zoo favorite, but nothing can bring the beautiful cat back. Even though zoo officials claim killing Margaash was their only recourse, you hope the zoo enacts stricter policies so a tragedy like this one never happens again.
Of course, it’s not often that a wild or escaped animal wanders into our personal space; they typically want to avoid us at all costs. But, on the rare occasion that they do, it can lead to some serious trouble.
Bears, for example, aren’t exactly the kind of animal you’d consider helpless. Still, they’re curious, and that can sometimes leave them between a rock and a hard place. This was no more evident than the case of one bear in Alligator Point on St. James Island in Florida…
The 375-pound black bear had been sniffing around the neighborhood when he wandered into a home. Wildlife conservation officers were called to sedate him and safely relocate him to the wild, but moments after he was shot with a tranquilizer, things started to go wrong.
It may sound harsh to shoot an animal, even by strictly non-lethal means, but the wildlife officers had no choice. As much as the bear wanted nothing more than to mind his own business, he would have encountered a human soon enough.
Even though using a tranquilizer was the humane option to ensure the bear and area residents stayed safe, there were no guarantees the process would go the way they planned it…
Of course, that plan quickly backfired. Instead of the dart sedating him, it immediately sent the bear into a panic. The wildlife officers readied themselves for the worst, but they didn’t realize just how bad things were about to get.
The large bear, who must have been terrified by the officers chasing him, made a beeline toward the nearby water—and he began swimming out as far as he could. Unfortunately, that was when the sedative started to kick in.
The drowsy bear clearly couldn’t keep himself afloat—and he began to drown! Adam Warwick, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, knew that he had to act quickly.
Without hesitating, the fearless and determined Adam dove into the water and swam toward the huge bear. Most people couldn’t imagine doing something quite so brave, but to him, it made perfect sense… at least in the moment.
“It was a spur of the moment decision. I had a lot of adrenaline pumping when I saw the bear in the water,” Adam later said of the experience. Thank goodness for that adrenaline, otherwise he would have known how dangerous it truly was. What if the bear attacked him?
Adam didn’t have time to think twice: he grabbed the enormous bear with both hands and wrapped his arms around his neck. Then he started to kick toward shallow water where the other wildlife officers were waiting…
The bear wasn’t entirely asleep, and he was understandably distressed. He frantically tried to climb on top of Adam in an effort to stay afloat, but he was losing the ability to move his legs.
Despite his stressful—and incredibly risky—mission, Adam stayed as calm as he could as he approached more shallow water. He grabbed the bear by the scruff of his neck and carefully led him toward the rescue boat.
Thankfully, Adam was able to pull the powerful predator roughly 25 yards toward dry land. Moving the bear might’ve seemed (relatively) easy in the water, but it was a different story on the shore!
The unusual pair finally made it to the rest of the rescue team, in one piece. Though the bear was sedated, he could have lunged at Adam or swiped at him with his claws at any moment…
Incredibly, Adam suffered only one scratch during the entire ordeal. Other than that, he was perfectly fine! Who would have known that he’d come out of this risky mission relatively unscathed?
Adam’s colleagues stepped in to help the exhausted man and beast collect their bearings. It was going to take a lot of people—and a lot of bravery along the way, much like anyone in this type of situation…
The team drove a large tractor toward the water’s edge to transport the groggy bear back to his home in Osceola National Forest. There was no way they would’ve been able to carry a 375-pound animal without a little help!
Thankfully, the bear didn’t suffer any injuries after his wild jaunt in the water. It was safe to say that he probably wouldn’t go anywhere near water for a while following this experience.
Most importantly, this massive bear was safe and back in a habitat that suited him best. Hopefully by now he’s learned to avoid wandering into residential neighborhoods!