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PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am


Last year in Ohio, in the United States, 56 wild and potentially dangerous animals - including lions, tigers, bears, giraffes and wolves - were found running free in a rural area near a home-made zoo. The owner, 62-year-old Terry Thompson, had let the animals out of their cages before shooting himself.

The animals - 18 rare Bengal tigers among them - were hunted down by police and shot, which is sad, but those few moments of freedom must have been exhilarating. 'Finally,' the beasts must have thought, 'we get to devour some Americans.'

Apparently they came pretty close, too. One cop shot a charging black bear that came within seven feet of him. A tiger charged a woman who had just pinged it with a tranquilliser dart. Before the sedative took effect, the big cat had turned away at the last moment and headed off in another direction. But it, too, was felled by a cop's bullet.

The moral of the story? Don't keep wild and ferocious animals as pets - especially if you live in Wan Chai (there're enough there already). And always respect an animal's right to a decent life, even if you plan on passing it through your digestive system at some stage.

If you have trouble processing those thoughts, we recommend you tune into Animal Planet on Wednesday at 11pm for the first episode of new series Great Animal Escapes (right). The show gives viewers a look inside the animals' minds as they try to break free from their Homo sapien oppressors.

Throughout the series, we bear witness to elephants, zebras, tigers, orang-utans and bears rising up against their oppressors at zoos, circuses and farms in a kind of 'animal spring', attempting escape by whatever means possible. And so we see two Indian elephants pretending to be asleep before sneaking off into the streets of Toronto (one of them, I believe, is now mayor). We bear witness to a group of conniving pandas who distract a zookeeper so their buddies can make a break for it. And we meet door-code-memorising chimps who take over Tokyo zoo for a night of mayhem.

It's compelling viewing, and you can't help but root for the underdogs ... or undercats. We also get an insight into animal psychology, which basically boils down to something like this: living in captivity is not actually that awesome.

But at least the animals can be thankful they don't live in Texas, under the thrall of a demented cult leader who believes he is Jesus. No, not Rick Perry - the other one. No no, not George W., either. David Koresh.

In Seconds from Disaster: Waco Cult (Thursday, 10pm), National Geographic recounts one of America's longest sieges. After a 51-day stand-off in 1993, the FBI moved in for a dawn assault on the Branch Davidians compound. An ensuing gunfight between federal agents and cult members resulted in 10 deaths.

Using military tactics, the FBI attempted to smoke the cult out with tear gas, but the Davidians refused to surrender. Somehow, a rampant fire broke out and engulfed the compound in less than 20 minutes, killing nearly 80 people, including 22 children.

So were these people led to their deaths by Koresh or killed by ham-fisted federal agents? Sounds like a question that can only be answered by a late-night cable-television show.

The moral of the story? Don't keep meek and impressionable humans as pets - especially if you live in Waco.