Singer says recent Zoo incidents were not dangerous
By Julia Cheever
January 11, 2008
A spokesman for the San Francisco Zoo confirmed today that a
snow leopard ripped a hole in a mesh cage and stuck out a paw
and part of its head on Thursday but said there was never a danger
of the animal escaping.
Spokesman Sam Singer said the mesh cage containing the 100-pound
leopard was inside a second, larger cage.
"It had no opportunity of ever escaping and coming in contact
with the public," Singer said.
The incident occurred a little more than two weeks after a 350-pound
Siberian tiger leaped out of its grotto on Christmas Day and fatally
mauled Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, and injured brothers Amritpal and
Kulbir Dhaliwal, 19 and 23, of San Jose.
Singer said that another recent incident concerning a polar bear
was not an attempt by the bear to escape but rather a case of
an "obstinate animal."
Singer said zookeepers had to "cajole" the polar bear
to move from one enclosure to another on the evening of Jan. 3,
the night before severe rainstorms hit the Bay Area, and that
the zookeepers eventually had to use a fire hose to do so.
The bear "didn't try to escape," he said.
Singer said the zoo's recently announced plan to raise the height
of a wall around the polar bear exhibit was under way before the
incident and is being undertaken to meet Association of Zoos and
Aquariums guidelines rather than because of danger to the public.
Neither incident was dangerous, Singer maintained.
Also today, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission
held a four-hour hearing at City Hall on the tiger mauling and
on zoo plans for improving exhibits.
Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Dennis said Commission
President Larry Martin opened the meeting by expressing condolences
to Sousa's family and regrets for the injuries to the Dhaliwals.
The commission met in closed session for nearly an hour with
lawyers from the city attorney's office to discuss what its agenda
called "anticipated litigation."
City lawyers have said they expect the attack victims sue the
city and zoo.
The panel then reopened the session to the public and heard reports
from department and zoo officials, followed by one-minute comments
by nearly 100 members of the public. Dennis said the comments
ranged from support for the zoo to statements by animal rights
advocates who oppose keeping animals in zoo.
In another development today, a dispute over possible evidence
in the Dhaliwals' cell phones and car was transferred by a San
Francisco Superior Court commissioner to Santa Clara Superior
Commissioner Bruce Chan said the city of San Francisco's bid
for a court order allowing investigators to inspect the items
should be heard in the brothers' home county.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates Manoukian will
hold a hearing on the request in San Jose on Wednesday and in
the meantime has ordered San Francisco police to retain custody
of the phones and car until further notice.
City attorneys have said possible evidence in the items could
be crucial in defense against the expected lawsuits. They told
Chan in papers filed Thursday that materials in the car allegedly
include a half-empty bottle of alcohol and "apparent evidence
of drug use."
Shepard Kopp, a lawyer for the Dhaliwals, today called the suggestion
of possible drug use "more character assassination."
He said, "Nothing is going to come out of this that is incriminating,"
but said, "Our clients want their property back."
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