Thursday, December 27, 2007


Sad news out of San Francisco. The female Siberian tiger escaped her enclosure to kill a young man and wounded two others. She was shot and killed by police officers.

I've been trying to find out more about it but the new stories have been remarkably flash-in-the-pan. There was a big glut of stories till it turned out that the men may have been terrorizing the tiger and may have helped it escape by dangling their legs over the edge. Apparently, she jumped up a 12.5 foot wall (although some reports say 18). I don't know for sure how deep it was, but it looked much taller than two man-heights the last time I was there.

What is disturbing to me is 2 things. First the news reports were so full of misinformation, that I don't believe anything they say. This was the same tiger that scratched up her zookeeper in 2006, when the zookeeper stuck her arm in the cage during a feeding demonstration. Some news reports said she (tiger) ripped or chewed the zookeeper's arm off. Other reports said that the three guys who were attacked did not know each other and made it seem like the tiger was just wandering around mauling people. There were only 20 in the whole zoo at the time of the attack, there were no other witnesses around the cat enclosure. The two other men involved in the incident have not given statments to the police yet.

The second is the reaction against it. Yes, there are many people who think that teasing tigers is not a good idea. Yet the other half protest that the zoos are still responsible, no matter what the boys did. The SF zoo is putting up security cameras (which I think is a great thing, then they can fine people teasing the animals!), and are talking about electrified fences. Basically, to keep people from their own stupidity. But most outdoor cat enclosures in zoos are built the same way.

These people also cry shame on the other half, who believe that if the kids teased the tiger, then they are to blame. How can you be so insensitive, they cry. How can you value the tiger's life over the boy's?

She was part of a breeding program. There are less than 500 Siberian tigers left in the wild.


Dorid said...

I've been researching this for the last couple of hours, and can't find a definitive story. At first it sounded as though the zoo had been negligent, and it may come down to that legally.

It's unfortunate that there are so many people who go to the zoos and behave in this manner. These animals are not there for them to torment. They are there for them to enjoy and to learn from. I think you and I have both witnessed some incredibly stupid people at the zoos.

Cameras are a good idea. The other good idea would be to make it a criminal offense, or to charge these people with animal abuse... and that goes for everyone who tosses something into an enclosure or teases an animal. That would take better monitoring and perhaps more staff and volunteers roaming the ground.

The problem is that ultimately the zoo has to be responsible for the safety of the public. Yes, no one should have been teasing the tiger, but the tiger should not have been able to get out, either. There will always be idiots out there.

Finally it strikes me as odd how many people like this go to the zoos. Why are they there? What do they get out of it? I really don't understand the motivation of these kids.

In the long run, this is only one more example of other animals suffering (and dying) from the idiocy of humans.

Brine Queen said...

Yes, the stuff about the wall being 12.5 ft has been showing up all over the web in the last couple of hours. It will most likely come down hard on the zoo that the zoo's walls were that height.

However, there are no set guidelines as to what height the walls should be. Now they know that over 12ft isn't enough.

Dorid said...

One of the interesting descrepencies has been the wall height, which was originally reported as 16 ft. From some reports there is some sort of concensus among the zoos that the height of the wall should be 18 ft, although they tend to vary in zoos between 16 and 20 feet.

of course if the guy were sitting on the wall with his legs dangling over, well, there wouldn't have to be quite the jump. Since there were no witnesses, the zoo will get the short end of this when it comes to a lawsuit. And of course ultimately it was the tiger who paid the highest price. It's really a shame, since females are so important to the breeding programs.

Kinda makes you ashamed to be human.