A tiger that broke loose after flooding at Tbilisi Zoo mauled a man to death in the Georgian capital on Wednesday before being shot by police.
The Interior Ministry said the tiger was hiding in a warehouse when it attacked the man. The victim, who worked at the warehouse, died in hospital of his wounds.
“We entered the depot and, suddenly, a white tiger rushed out and attacked one of the workers, jumping at his throat and mauling him,” a colleague of the victim said.
Police commandos rushed to the site and killed the tiger. “We wanted to sedate it, but it was very aggressive and we had to liquidate it,” Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said.
Zurab Gurielidze, the zoo’s director, acknowledged he was to blame for releasing an incorrect statement a day earlier that all the zoo’s tigers had died. Mr Gurielidze said new counts indicated that a tiger cub and a hyena could still be on the loose. The city remains on edge, and some residents have reportedly spotted runaway predators.
Zoo officials said on Tuesday that eight lions, all the zoo’s seven tigers and at least two of its three jaguars had been killed in the flooding. Fewer than half of the zoo’s 600 inhabitants had survived, they added.
The flooding, triggered by torrential rains over the weekend, killed at least 19 people and destroyed houses. A number of people remain missing.
Georgia’s Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, had criticised zoo officials for providing false information and ordered the Interior Minister to personally oversee the count of animals that were dead or missing. “I want to offer my apology to the population,” he said.
After the Prime Minister’s statement, Mr Gurielidze admitted his mistake: “We had wrong information that there were no predators outside the zoo. I take full responsibility for that,” he said.
Mr Gurielidze said a tiger cub could also be roaming the city streets, but he claimed that the cub “poses no threat to people”.