OXFORD - Sherry and Curtis Jackson, owners of a zebra named Barcode that was part of a prank at Oxford College and another zebra named Jazz, learned this week that both their pets had died en route to a Midwest zoo in December.
Barcode made international headlines in late April when still unknown Oxford College students or some other nearby resident likely cut open Barcode's pen, walked him down the road to Seney Hall and sent him on his way up the elevator to the third floor. The prank resulted in thousands of dollars in damages to the historic building.
The Jacksons had failed to renew the proper permit to house the animal, and after the spring spectacle and multiple court hearings, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division seized both zebras, planning to ship them to a zoo in Missouri.
On Dec. 29, Todd Nims, a wildlife biologist who supervises the WRD's Special Permit Unit, told the Citizen that the zebras were shipped to a zoo in the Midwest on Dec. 12.
On Wednesday, Sherry Jackson said she had learned by word of mouth the previous day that the two zebras died before they reached the zoo.
Robin Hill, program manager of communications in the public affairs office at the WRD, confirmed Thursday that the animals died when staff at Wild Animal Safari, of Springfield, Mo., were transporting the zebras in the same equine trailer to their facility on Dec. 12.
"They injured themselves en route to the new facility, and it was bad enough that they had to be euthanized," Hill said, adding that she didn't know the exact injuries or where the animals were when they were injured.
"We were told that the animals stressed out in the trailer, injured themselves, and after examination by a veterinarian, the vet determined they needed to be euthanized, which the vet handled on site," Hill said.
She said this is a common result.
"Unfortunately, this is an occurrence when you transfer wild animals," Hill said. "This is an example why zebras are wild animals and not pets. It's very unfortunate that this happened."
She said her division tried to find the zebras a home in Georgia, but decided to give them to the Missouri zoo, which had shown interest in them.
"We checked all around the state - there are 12 facilities with 50 zebras that are currently licensed in Georgia," Hill said. "But we could not find a suitable place for them ... that was properly permitted and had a facility up to our codes with adequate enclosures."
Sherry Jackson said Thursday that she's always believed in her heart that the zebras died, instead of being safe in the Midwest.
"The safety of the zebras was my utmost concern," she said.
Jackson said she hopes one day justice will be served to those who took Barcode.
"They might not have killed the zebras that night, but they indirectly killed them," Jackson said. "It's not right that we have to suffer such a loss and they get nothing."
Michelle Floyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.