A couple in Maryland has been taking care of zebras that have avoided recapture for almost two months following their escape from a farm in Upper Marlboro southeast of Washington, DC.
“All of a sudden I’m in the middle of trying to save zebras. I would never in a million years think I’d be here,” Theodore McKenzie, a groundskeeper on private lands that connects to the farm, told ABC 7.
“We reached out to the farm owner and that didn’t really go anywhere,” he added.
Mr McKenzie found one of the three escaped zebras dead from dehydration after being caught in a snare.
“It became apparent that these zebras are in danger,” he said. “Someone actively sought one and hurt it ... I am standing in-between anybody that wants to hurt the zebras ever again and their safety.”
Kevin Lewis of ABC 7 News tweeted that Bethany Petrie and Theodore McKenzie have been taking care of the two remaining zebras for around a month.
Mr McKenzie and Ms Petrie have managed to make the zebras, which can run at speeds up to 40mph, on the property without a fence to keep them in.
On Tuesday, Mr McKenzie spread hay shortly before 4pm and the zebras were photographed eating the feed just over two hours later.
Ms Petrie and Mr McKenzie have started the Save the Zebras Foundation and they now run a website and a Facebook page, posting daily links and images.
“People are starting to donate,” Mr McKenzie told ABC 7. “Get involved. Help me help the zebras.”
He added that he’s working with a veterinarian and he’s drawing up a plan for capturing the zebras in a safe way.
“I would love to see them at the National Zoo, but I know the National Zoo only has so much funding and so much space, they might not be able to take them. That’s just a dream for the two famous zebras,” he told ABC 7.
The outlet reported on Wednesday that 76-year-old farm owner Jerry Lee Holly has been charged with three counts of animal cruelty. The initial date listed in the case is 26 August.
Legal filings state that a dead zebra was found on the farm yesterday in a state of rigour-mortis, which is when the muscles stiffen after death due to chemical changes that helps to ascertain the time of death and if the body has been moved after passing. The dead zebra found on the farm is in addition to the zebra found dead in a snare.
Authorities claim that Mr Holly didn’t provide his 40-strong herd of zebras with proper food, water, and vet care.
“The zebras at large are a public nuisance,” the court filing says. “The media coverage surrounding the zebras has brought traffic and trespassers to surrounding homes. The animals are dangerous and serve a risk to persons approaching them, and a risk to drivers on the public roadways.”
No defence lawyer is recorded in the legal filing.
Court documents state that Maryland Animal Services spoke to Mr Holly who said he “had no plan to recapture the zebras at that time”.
“The zebras at large pose a threat to the community [as] they continue to wander through communities, railroad, and public roads,” authorities said in the filing. “The zebras are also at risk.”