Zoo director shifts tiger attack blame away from
"Something prompted our tiger to leap over
Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, escaped from her grotto at the San
on Christmas Day killing one man and mauling two others
before authorities shot and killed the apex predator.
Photo courtesy siouxcityjournal.com
By Ari Burack
January 2, 2008
The director of the San Francisco Zoo said today the tiger that
escaped and killed a zoo visitor and injured two others on Christmas
Day was provoked before it leapt over its enclosure, though he
declined to point the finger directly at its victims.
"Something prompted our tiger to leap over the exhibit,"
zoo director Manual Mollinedo said this afternoon at a news conference
announcing new security measures for the zoo's reopening Thursday,
the first time since the fatal mauling.
Mollinedo would not say whether he felt any of the three friends
attacked outside the big cat exhibit on the afternoon of Dec.
25 were acting improperly toward Tatiana, a 350-pound Siberian
tiger. The tiger somehow traversed a 33-foot-wide moat, scaled
a 12-foot, 5-inch high wall - four feet below national guidelines
- and fatally mauled 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr., of San Jose.
"All I know is that something happened to provoke that tiger
out of the exhibit," Mollinedo repeated. "The police
are investigating it and until they can come up with some definitive
answers, it would only be speculation on my part at this point."
Two of Sousa's friends, San Jose brothers Paul Dhaliwal, 19,
and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, were also attacked, hospitalized and
treated for claw and bite wounds. Police responding to the zoo
fatally shot the tiger.
The case has led to media reports first published in the New
York Post Tuesday suggesting that one or more of the brothers
may have used slingshots to provoke the attack. But police told
Fog City Journal today they had no evidence to support the claim.
"No slingshots have been found," SFPD spokesperson
Steve Mannina affirmed.
About 20 visitors were still inside the zoo at the time of the
tiger escape, as the zoo was closing around 5 p.m., according
The zoo will reopen Thursday at 10 a.m. with a new public address
system to notify visitors if a dangerous animal escapes, Mollinedo
Visitors will also be greeted with signs throughout the zoo about
"proper zoo etiquette," warning against tapping on glass
enclosures, throwing objects into exhibits, making excessive noise,
and teasing or calling out to animals.
The big cat exhibit remains closed indefinitely while the zoo
constructs a higher wall around the exhibit's grotto area. Mollinedo
said the current wall will be extended to 19 feet and will include
glass portals for visitors to view the cats.
Construction on the wall is expected to take about 30 days, he
said. The zoo also has "long term" plans to install
security cameras, Mollinedo said.
"I want to ensure all our visitors that the zoo is a safe
place," Mollinedo said.
Luke Thomas contributed to this report.
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