Escaped big cats recaptured but wildlife park has heavy tornado damage

Credit: Wild Animal Safari

Credit: Wild Animal Safari

Athena and Nika had a wild Saturday night.

One or more tornadoes scrambled their Troup County neighborhood a week ago and tore up their home.

After falling trees broke through the security fence on March 25, the big cats went for a walk, prompting one of the more unusual posts on the Troup County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page:

“We have received a report from the Pine Mountain Animal Safari that they are reporting a tiger that is unaccounted inside the park,” the Sheriff’s Office posted Sunday morning.

Public safety officers, who responded to the emergency, would later upgrade that count to two unaccounted-for tigers.

To be precise, Athena is a white tiger and Nika is a liger (Panthera leo/tigris), a cross between a lion and a tiger. Neither wandered far from their enclosure, and both were kept within the park boundaries by a secondary security fence unaffected by the storms.

One commenter had suggested a failsafe solution. “Just shake the container and he will come running,” she posted with an image of a Fancy Feast can.

Actually, explained Lisa Brady, president and CEO of Parks America, which owns the 500-acre Pine Mountain attraction, animal park personnel found the two felines and using tranquilizer darts, sedated them and recaptured them.

She reported that the big cats are in good health, but about 10 of the park’s 515 animals were injured during the storms, and two were killed, including a capybara and a “singing dog.”

She added that there were 3,500 trees down in the park, and that teams of arborists and tree specialists are still hard at work repairing the damage.

The Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain includes a drive-through section, in which motorists can tour 3.5 miles of road among animals that roam freely, and other sections featuring penguins, spider monkeys, lemurs, giraffes and other exotic animals.

The Sheriff’s Office returned to the site last week for a happier visit, saying in a social media post that officials “had a chance to see the famous tigers that were safely recaptured and returned to their enclosures.”