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Tiger attack at S.F. Zoo

By Gary Bogue
Wednesday, December 26th, 2007 at 7:25 am in tiger attack, Zoos.

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
— from “The Tiger” by William Blake (1757-1827)

So how is it possible that a female Siberian tiger, the same one that attacked and badly lacerated a keeper’s arm almost exactly a year ago, can escape its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo and kill one zoo visitor and seriously maul and injure two others?

According to our front-page story in today’s Contra Costa Times, the state division of OSHA ruled that the zoo was responsible for the Dec. 2006 attack on the zoo keeper during feeding at the zoo’s Lion House “because of poor training and the way the cages were set up.” The zoo closed the Lion House for renovations and didn’t open it until September of this year.

Of course, all those renovations won’t do any good if the tiger gets out of its cage.

Two critical accidents at the San Francisco Zoo in one year. A keeper is seriously injured in one, and two zoo visitors are critically injured and one zoo visitor is killed in the other.

This isn’t just about adding steel mesh over some cage bars to keep a zoo keeper from being bitten. This time, a 300-pound Siberian tiger escaped from her enclosure and killed someone.

The San Francisco Zoo should be closed until they can guarantee that something like this won’t happen again.

The question of the day now becomes, can they make such a guarantee? /gary

This picture of San Francisco Zoo tigers Tony and Tatiana taken in April 2007 by Flickr user ChadH under Creative Commons license.

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16 Responses to “Tiger attack at S.F. Zoo”

  1. kd3569 Says:

    My first question was not “how” did she get out, but why did she attack? I understand that she is a wild animal, but is it natural for wild animals to attack humans? It seems like there is more to this than just a faulty/unsafe cage.

  2. john Says:

    “I understand that she is a wild animal, but is it natural for wild animals to attack humans?”

    KD, that was a joke, right? You’re not that naive,..or are you?

  3. Gary Bogue Says:

    To KD3569:
    It’s perfectly natural for a large predator like a tiger to attack anything, including humans, under the right circumstances. Large predatory cats in zoos sometimes sit for years staring out at humans from the confinement of their cages. If they find themselves suddenly free, they are apt to attack the first human they see out of pure frustration. Think about it. /Gary

  4. kd3569 Says:

    John, not naive at all, most wild animals avoid humans. I’m trying to bring up the idea that a zoo animal is different than a wild animal. Just as Gary says, zoo animals “sit for years staring at humans” and “attack out of pure frustration”. A bigger, stronger cage is not the answer to a zoo tiger who attacks a human.

  5. Carole Baskin Says:

    The following is a partial listing (660) of incidents in the U.S. involving captive exotic cats since 1990. The U.S. incidents have resulted in the deaths of 20 humans, 15 adults and 4 children, the additional mauling of 174 more adults and children, 138 escapes, the killing of 81 big cats, and 113 confiscations.  There have also been 150 big cat incidents outside the U.S. that have resulted in the deaths of 57 humans and the mauling of 85 humans by captive big cats.  These figures only represent the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track.  Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records the actual numbers are certainly much higher.  http://www.bigcatrescue.org/big_cat_news.htm

  6. Laura Says:

    I think the big question here is how did she happen to get out? What happened on this day that was different from any other day she didnt decide to escape? Caged, confined etc, still they are wild animals and respect and safty needs to be first. How did she get out of her enviromnt over a 20 ft wide mote? I think that there is more to this story and wait to find out what comes out.

  7. JJ Says:

    A commenter on the SFGate website said there are a number of wildlife refuges that will accept an animal that has shown agression toward humans – Gary, do you know of any? And if so, how are they certain that they themselves won’t be attacked?

  8. Pat in Antioch Says:

    Personally, I feel that these animals should be left in the wild where they belong. Take any being out of its element, cage it up in cramped quarters & the results would be the same. We (rightfully) do it to prisoners as a form of punishment for crimes committed; what did the animals do to deserve this same “punishment?” My heart goes out to the families of these young men, but the tiger was just being a tiger.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she leapt out of her confines either. I’ve seen my small, 11 lb. cat leap 6+ feet, straight up, chasing a laser and clear an equal distance jumping across the floor. What made the folks who designed the zoo confines think that something SO much larger & more powerful couldn’t leap or climb 20 feet up or 15 feet across the moat. This is such a sad thing all around, but the bottom line is that if the tiger weren’t in the zoo to start with, this never would have happened.

    Pat in Antioch

  9. Pat in Antioch Says:

    …..and to answer your question Gary….of course they CAN’T guarantee that something like this won’t happen again!!

  10. Val Says:

    Pat, if they were left in the wild they’d be dead.

  11. tammy Says:

    might not have been the zoo’s fault.. possibly due to human error. new evidence surfaced which suggests that the tiger was possibly aided out of her area by victim’s dangling leg through the fence of the grotto. the tiger was also possibly provoked given by pinecones and sticks found on moat that could not have naturally landed there. here’s a recent link:
    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5glzUOMikfoz-ZJpJUpoGhJksoajw
    tiger is possibly a victim as well to the case of foul play.

  12. tiger woman Says:

    Poor Tatiana..she was wild at heart and probaly sick of being in feline prison.
    I cannot help but wonder if she was harrassed and provoked and said enough is enough…interesting she went after the group of people who came together and not other individuals. Hopefully someone will have videos and photos. I am curious oi the injured had cell phones with photos of the tiger?
    Will Tatiana have a memorial and a funeral?

    Run free brave Tatiana ….

  13. Pat in Antioch Says:

    You’re probably right Val; but in my perfect world with no zoos, there is also not a human race that hunts these animals to near extinction! ;-)

    Pat in Antioch

  14. Neela Sen Says:

    Tatiana should be mourned because she was only following her instincts. It is tragic that people do not admire and respect these beautiful, regal animals. I deplore the fact that one young teenager is dead but the world is sadly depleted of another Siberian tigress who could have bred more and added to the gene-pool. This is the conundrum that faces zoos and reserves for exotic wild animals.

    Neela in Houston

  15. Jodie Says:

    The tiger lived in terrible conditions…I have seen them and would never return to the SF zoo. It is very possible that this wild animal finally was just able to physically escape and lived and breathed for the moment it could get away. Maybe, the men attacked did nothing to provoke the animal and Tatiana just did what tigers do naturally in the wild. She attacked out of instinct and being driven half crazy in an inadequate enclosure for years. The fact that she escaped is the issue….we all know that once an animal escapes it becomes dangerous beyond belief and does not need permission or a reason.

  16. Judy Says:

    I recall reading that she “tracked” the other 2 taunters to the cafe. She was fed up with them and actually hunting them! This was NOT a random attack. she knew who they were and what she was doing, just as they knew what they were doing!

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