TBILISI, Georgia — A tiger that escaped a flood-ravaged zoo was shot dead in central Tbilisi on Wednesday after it killed a man working on disaster relief.
The dramatic deaths — of man and predator — shocked residents of Georgia three days after flooding destroyed Tbilisi’s zoo, swept away homes and killed at least 19 people. Zoo officials also came under fire for announcing Tuesday that all the wayward animals were accounted for, and prosecutors opened a probe into the zoo’s well-regarded director.
Camouflaged special forces officers swarmed the area near the zoo to hunt down the white-and-black tiger after it mauled to death the relief worker in a former factory converted into a center for construction supplies.
“The tiger is liquidated,” Interior Ministry spokeswoman Nino Giorgobiani said.
Tbilisi streets on Sunday turned into a big-game park after lions, bears, crocodiles and hyenas went on the loose from the flood-damaged zoo, where the rising waters killed bears, lions and other animals. Many of the wayward animals were shot. The luckier ones were recovered and returned to the zoo, including a hippopotamus subdued with a tranquilizer dart in front of a Swatch store.
After the tiger mauling, Georgia’s prime minister, Irakli Garibashvili, ordered zookeepers to again count of how many animals remain missing.
Over the past days, as the search expanded for the wandering animals, zoo officials pleaded for authorities to use tranquilizers rather than bullets. But authorities appeared in many instances to have only conventional weapons.
On Wednesday, shortly before officials said the tiger had been shot, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri said: “We hope that it won’t come to the death of another animal.”
“We wanted to sedate” the tiger, he added, “but it was very aggressive, and we had to liquidate it.”
The zoo lies at the base of a valley alongside a small river, which poured over its banks after torrential rains, leaving many of the animal enclosures underwater. Three zoo workers were among those killed.
The zoo said Wednesday that one of its 17 penguins was found by border guards in a river near the frontier with Azerbaijan, about 25 miles east of Tbilisi, the Associated Press reported.
In the capital, unease appeared to set in among some residents. One woman claimed she saw another tiger about two miles from the zoo. Police swarmed the area but found nothing.
A police spokesman, speaking on Georgian television, urged people to avoid “false panic.”