A leopard, one of only six escaped exotic animals to survive this week's shootings near Zanesville (map), Ohio, looks toward an uncertain future from a safe enclosure at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium's hospital on Thursday. (Read "Should the Ohio Exotic Animals Have Been Shot?")
The rescued animals' future homes are anyone's guess. "They're being kept here until there is some legal or other resolution of their status," said zoo spokesperson Patty Peters.
(Watch National Geographic video on the exotic-animal escape in Ohio.)
"We're taking care of them for now, and maybe for the future, but by law they're still the legal property of the people who owned them," Peters added.
On Tuesday, Terry W. Thompson-owner of the private, 73-acre (30-hectare) Muskingum County Animal Farm-released the leopard, along with more than 50 other exotic animals, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 African lions, 8 bears, 3 mountain lions, a baboon, and a wolf.
Moments later Thompson committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and other family members who could claim the animals.
Sheriff's deputies subsequently shot and killed 48 of the escaped animals, which had been deemed a serious threat to public safety. One animal, a macaque monkey, remains missing and may have been eaten by one of the big cats, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz told reporters Thursday.
(See pictures of exotic animals rescued at the L.A. airport.)