Animal rights group calls for change in zoo policy
Caroline Nasella and Sarah Holmsen of the animal rights group
In Defense of Animals prepare for a vigil at the San Francisco
Zoo in memory of both Carlos Sousa and Tatiana, and to call for
change in zoo policy.
Photos by John
January 4, 2008
Animal rights advocates said Thursday that they plan on asking
the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to hold hearings to determine
whether there should be policy changes at the San Francisco Zoo.
Fred Rabidoux, a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church
in San Francisco, said during a vigil at the zoo, that large animals
should not be kept in zoos.
"Why are we subjecting these animals to such unnatural conditions?"
asked Rabidoux. "The right thing to do is to respect the
right of each animal to live its life in surroundings that nature
put it in. Being captive and held in a confined space is not sufficient
to reverse its wild character."
Elliot Katz, founder and president of the animal rights group
In Defense of Animals (IDA), said that the zoo has a history of,
"letting people provoke the animals," by taunting them
repeatedly in "public feeding spectacles."
"They tell people to come into the lion house and see them
feed the tigers, and see them growl and get all excited,"
The vigil was held in memory of both Tatiana and Carlos Sousa,
who was mauled to death by the tiger after it had escaped from
its grotto. Tatiana was shot and killed when police arrived on
Katz says the zoo should stop public feedings.
"To me, that contributed to the exacerbation of the anger
that Tatiana had against people, being taunted like that literally
everyday," said Katz. He says zoos must adopt the mindset
of a "haven", or "sanctuary" that places the
quality of life of its' animals above public entertainment and
Katz says wildlife experts plan to visit the zoo and give their
assessment to the Board of Supervisors.
According to IDA, the recent killing incident is only the most
extreme tragedy in a long list of problems at the zoo due to poor
management. They list incidents starting in 1997.
That year the City allowed the zoo to be privatized, turning
management over to the San Francisco Zoological Society, a private
In 2004, the zoo neglected an elephant crisis that saw the death
of three elephants within a year due to inhumane conditions, conditions
that included enclosures of less than a quarter acre of land for
the elephants to live in, and forced elephants to stand on hard,
compacted surfaces, leaving them with inadequate exercise, joint
degeneration and foot problems.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution
in 2004 urging the Zoological Society to relocate three surviving
elephants to an animal sanctuary. In the end, only one elephant
survived. The other two elephants died.
Since then two African antelopes have been killed by another
antelope, two black swans have died of shock, a dozen penguins
died from disease, and a hippopotamus died a day after being moved
to a temporary exhibit.
And in 1997 a $48 million bond measure was passed to improve
conditions for animals at the zoo. IDA claims the Zoological Society
used the money for "people amenities" such as a café
and a gift shop.
Richard Schulke, former president for the Animal Control and
Welfare Commission of San Francisco, says the zoo has lost experienced
workers since the Zoological Society took over management ten
"The Zoological Society really has to concentrate on making
money in order to continue," Schulke said. "A lot of
the money originally went into the infrastructure of the zoo to
make it nicer for people, and not for the animals. I still worry
that it's more concerned about making money than they are about
Schulke says profit-driven motives have resulted in zoo workers
having less experience.
Richard Schulke and Elliot Katz