COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - The widow of the exotic animal collector who set dozens of lions, tigers, bears and other creatures free before killing himself last week wants back the surviving animals, authorities said on Thursday.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said it had been notified by attorneys representing Marian Thompson that she plans to collect the six surviving animals -- three leopards, two monkeys and one grizzly bear -- on Thursday afternoon.
The Zoo said it had no legal right to the animals and that it had only removed them from Thompson's farm with her permission. But it said it was working with state and federal officials to try to block Thompson from reclaiming the animals.
"We had hoped Ms. Thompson would leave the animals at the Zoo in the care of our team of professionals" Dale Schmidt, the CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said in a statement.
"We are trying to get authorization from government authorities and agencies to ensure they stay at the Zoo. Unfortunately, the current laws do not protect the animals and at this time we have no legal right to stop them from being taken from the Zoo."
Thompson's husband, Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio, set his collection of 56 exotic animals free last week shortly before committing suicide.
Of the 56 released animals, 49 were killed and buried on the farm.
Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, whose department killed many of the animals, said his deputies would work to assure the safety of the public if the animals return to his county.
Lutz promised that, "the kind of thing which happened last week will not happen again."
(Reporting by Jim Leckrone. Writing by James B. Kelleher)