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Mar 18, 2020

When 18 Tigers Were Let Loose in Zanesville, Ohio

Besides tigers, people keep lions, cougars, leopards, and other big cats as pets. (Illustration: Zoë van Dijk/Courtesy Longreads)
Besides tigers, people keep lions, cougars, leopards, and other big cats as pets.

There are more tigers in captivity in the United States right now than all of the wild tigers in the world combined. This is due to loopholes in the laws governing big-cat ownership—and it’s a dangerous problem. Besides tigers, people keep lions, cougars, leopards, and other big cats as pets. It’s not great for the cats that are locked in cages and basements, but it’s really not great for the people nearby when, inevitably, those cats get out. Today, we have the story of what police officers were forced to do when a man named Terry Thompson let loose 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears, and a handful of other animals, and then shot himself. Nine years later, not much has changed in the way of regulation. It’s the first episode of a powerful four-part series from Longreads called Cat People that is coproduced by former Outside Podcast host Peter Frick-Wright.

Podcast Transcript

Editor’s Note: Transcriptions of episodes of the Outside Podcast are created with a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain some grammatical errors or slight deviations from the audio.

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EPISODE BEGINS 

Outside Podcast Theme: From Outside Magazine and PRX, this is the Outside Podcast.

 

Michael Roberts (host): Hello Outside Podcast listeners, this is your host, Michael Roberts. Before we get started today, I wanted to let you know that while the coronavirus is massively impacting the lives and job of everyone who works at Outside, here at the podcast, we’re going to continue to bring you the unique mix of great stories that you’ve enjoyed over the last four years. We believe that in this incredibly difficult moment, these stories, which aren’t directly about the pandemic, very much matter, and that they’re worth listening to. That includes today’s episode, by an old friend many of you know well. 

Peter Frick-Wright: Hey everybody, this is Peter Frick-Wright, former Outside podcast host, now off doing big, deep-dive longform projects. Now, when I stepped away from this show back in January, I promised I'd be back to share those big deep-dive projects, right here in the Outside feed. So here I am. It's a story I've been doing with the website Longreads and the writer Rachel Nuwer, about a problem that’s gone from being a conservation issue, to one of public safety.

And that problem is the fact that, thanks to some legal loopholes, there are more tigers in captivity in the United States, right now, than all of the wild tigers combined, anywhere in the world. You’ll hear us say that in the series, too. It’s kind of mind boggling.

And that’s just tigers. It doesn’t count the lions, cougars, leopards, and other big cats that people keep in cages. It’s not great for the cats in those cages, but it’s really not great for the people nearby when, inevitably, those cats get out. Cause then what do you do?

Today, we have the story of what one group of police officers were forced to do when a man named Terry Thompson let loose 18 tigers, 17 lions, 8 bears, and a handful of other animals, and then shot himself in the head.

It’s the first episode of a four-part series called Cat People, and it gets crazier from there. Search for "Cat People" in your podcast app to get the rest of the series. Here it is.

[Listen to Cat People here: https://longreads.com/catpeople/]

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Roberts: That’s the first episode of Cat People, the new series from Longreads with Rachel Nuwer and Peter Frick-Wright. It was produced by Peter, Rachel and Audrey Quinn, with music and sound design by Robbie Carver and editing by Mike Dang. You can listen to the rest of this series by searching for Cat People wherever you get your podcasts. You can read an accompanying feature story by Rachel Nuwer at Longreads.com/catpeople. 

This episode was brought to you by Spearfish South Dakota. Get an adventure guide to this unique destination at visitspearfish.com. This episode was also brought to you by Victorinox Swiss Army, maker of all kinds of trusty travel products. Go to victorinox.com and use the code Outside15 to save 15% on your order through April 17th. And this episode was brought to you by Allbirds, the world’s most comfortable shoes, which are made from premium natural materials. Find your perfect pair today at allbirds.com. We’ll be back next week.  

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Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.