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Teasing the Tiger?

Posted on December 28, 2007 in Scoundrels Zoos

square441San Francisco Zoo authorities and police are still trying to piece together what happened at the Siberian tiger enclosure. A new report reveals that they found “a shoe print on the railing of a low fence that separates the grotto from the visitor walkway and that police are trying to determine if the print matches any of the shoes of the three victims.”

I am betting that it does. Teasing is a common problem at the San Francisco Zoo. I’ve seen it myself on more than a few occasions. A few years ago, the big attraction for oafs was the chimpanzee exhibit where you could antagonize an ape into throwing his feces. If the trio of young men was egging Tatiana on, what followed cannot be called heroism — just trying to recover from a fatal mistake:

All three victims were at the grotto when the attack began, she said. When Sousa was attacked, the other two, who are brothers, yelled to distract the tiger. Tatiana released Sousa and turned toward the brothers, injuring one with claw slashes and bites.

The brothers fled to the cafe, but the tiger followed and mauled the second brother there.

Responding to the emergency call, police found Sousa dead near the grotto. After being alerted by zoo staff that the animal was heading toward the cafe, they pursued and found the tiger mauling one of the brothers.

“They saw a victim seated there on the ground. They saw blood coming from his face,” Fong said. “They heard him saying, ‘Help me, help me.’ ”

The tiger ignored the police officers’ shouts. When a second squad car arrived, Tatiana turned on the officers.

“To protect the victim as well as everyone else, they fired,” killing the animal, Fong said.

And they did the right thing.

In addition to the new fences and barriers (the San Diego Zoo has 12-foot walls on two sides and a 16-foot wall on the third — equipped with a 4-foot curved barrier at the top that extends inside the enclosure. All the enclosure walls are electrified at the top.), the San Francisco Zoo needs to look beyond technology and have people patrolling the park. Again, I have seen young men taking a dare to get inside the tiger fence, hurling objects and calling out to the beasts. Every time I have hurried by praying that this would not be the day the tiger would lash back. Christmas 2007 was that day.


One might wonder at Sousa’s standing up to the tiger. But it was only a few years ago when a group of bikers successfully faced down an anthropophagic mountain lion. I believe Sousa thought he and his pal could do the same, not factoring in or realizing the tiger’s greater size. When I see a mountain lion in the wilderness, I stand my ground. They only weigh about 120 pounds. If I were to see a tiger, I might quickly accept Pascal’s wager and say my prayers.

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