By TEMILADE ENIOLA
Police officials have gunned down a tiger that escaped from Tbilisi zoo in a freak flood but not after mauling a man to death in the Georgian capital on Wednesday
The victim, a 43-year-old man, “was hospitalised with cardiac arrest and a severed carotid artery,” the head of Tbilisi’s Republican Hospital, Avtandil Imedadze, told AFP.
The interior ministry had initially said the animal was a lion and deployed special forces to hunt down the beast which had been on the loose since the weekend flooding that killed at least 17 people.
But ministry spokeswoman Nino Giorgobiani later told AFP: “It was one tiger. It has been liquidated.”
The attack came just two days after the country’s prime minister said all the animals which were swept from the zoo in the flood — including lions, bears and a hippo — had been killed or captured.
Witnesses told Georgian television they saw a person being mauled by a white tiger near Heroes Square next to the zoo.
“It was a white tiger, a big one. It attacked a man, it seized him by the throat,” one agitated witness told the Imedi channel.
“The injuries were fatal, doctors were unable to restore his heart beat to save him,” he said.
The Georgian government had initially warned residents to stay indoors after the disaster, which wrecked the zoo after the Vere river burst its banks on Sunday after heavy rain.
The flooding claimed the lives of at least 17 people, including three zoo workers, and caused massive damage to the city’s central districts, with five people still missing.
Animal rights activists have demanded an investigation into revelations that in at least some of the cases, the animals did not need to be shot.
But zoo director Zurab Gurielidze — who nearly lost his life trying to save the animals from the flood — has defended the government’s response, saying officials did their best to protect people.