Five zebras remain on the loose nearly a month after they escaped a farm in Maryland, with multiple sightings reported across the region.
While caretakers have been trying to lure the animals into a fenced feeding area since their escape on 31 August, the zebras have successfully managed to evade all such attempts as they continue to explore the wilds of suburban Prince George’s County.
Since their jailbreak, the herd has split into a trio and a couple. Several residents have shared their encounters on social media.
Joshua DuBois, who worked for the White House during the Obama administration, on 19 September said that his son told him that he “saw the zebras” when they were returning home after fishing.
“Something tells me he actually thinks he saw them,” Mr DuBois said in a tweet, sharing a series of pictures and videos. “So I do a U on Croom Road, pull into some guy’s driveway and…BAM. WILD MARYLAND ZEBRAS.”
He was not the only one.
On 23 September, a zebra from the herd was spotted crossing a road in Upper Marlboro located about 20 miles from the White House.
While Linda Pennoyer, the mayor of Upper Marlboro, called the animals local “celebrities”, Democratic congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington, joked in a statement that despite her “opposition to fences”, she was not responsible for letting the zebras on the loose. “My alibi is solid,” she said.
The animals were part of a zeal of 39 zebras that had been brought to the Maryland farm from one in Florida in August, Rodney Taylor, chief of the Prince George’s County Animal Services Division told The New York Times.
The owner of the farm, identified as Jerry Holly, had a licence from the US Department of Agriculture that allowed him to keep the zebras, said Mr Taylor, adding that the farm has had a variety of wild animals ranging from black-handed spider monkeys, dromedaries, mandrills, red kangaroos, brown lemurs and gibbons.
Mr Taylor, in an interview with the Washington Post, also warned people against trying to approach the zebras or trying to pet them. “They’re not going to chase you down,” Mr Taylor said. “But they are zebras, so they’re not handled by people a lot, so to defend themselves they could bite.”
While efforts are underway to catch them at the feeding stations, they have so far been unsuccessful. Daniel I Rubenstein, a professor of zoology at Princeton University, said that this was because unlike domesticated horses who return to barn after they’ve strayed, zebras “don’t generally like people”. He added that they might not feed on the grains laid for them, if they find food elsewhere.
September has been a month of escapes for the striped animal, as two more zebras managed to flee their rural home in Wisconsin. These, however, returned to their farm soon afterwards, having taken a stroll on the highway.