Tiger Attacks At Zoos Aren’t Inevitable

A tiger at the San Francisco zoo jumped the moat and killed someone yesterday. As is usual with cases where people screw up, the article in the Contra Costa Times has lots of quotes about how it’s nobody’s fault. Of course, it’s the fault of the people who run the zoo! The version of the story at the site is missing some amazingly stupid parts that I can’t pass up quoting here.

“We won’t know until tomorrow whether this was negligence or intentional or how the tiger got out,” Mannina said.

That’s Sgt. Steve Mannina with the SF police. Apparently eye witnesses told reporters that the tiger jumped the moat and climbed the fence. I hope that it’s only negligence on the part of the people who work at the zoo. Is he suggesting that someone might have let the tiger out on purpose? Anyway, negligence is intentional.

Safety measures can help only so much when dealing with predators such as tigers, said Chris Austria, an animal trainer who has worked with tigers at Marine World in Vallejo and with bears at the San Francisco Zoo.

Much like indoor domesticated cats who escape from their homes, a captive tiger would be very interested in the outside world, Austria said. Tuesday’s attack likely had nothing to do with hunger, he said.

I’m nearly at a loss for words. These comments that don’t appear in the online version of the story make Austria sound like an idiot. The motivations of a wild animal are a non sequitur! And it’s a lie that safety measures can help only so much! The fence can’t be higher? The mote can’t be wider? He’s saying there’s nothing that could have been done. Wild animals will eventually attack and kill us.

The people responsible for the zoo should be fired, minimally. That should include Robert Jenkins, the zoo’s directory of animal care and conservation. It doesn’t seem unreasonable for there to be criminal charges. I would never return to the zoo unless they demonstrated that this kind of thing won’t happen again. I’m not feeling very confident about Marine World, either.

Chris Austria was involved in a tiger attack at Marine World in 1998. That’s probably why the reporters who wrote the story, Barbara Feder Ostrov and Sean Webby, knew to get a quote from him. I wonder why they didn’t mention the 1998 attack in their article.

One reply on “Tiger Attacks At Zoos Aren’t Inevitable”

I could not agree more with what you have to say. The emphasis has been so much on whether the tiger was provoked, that the responsibility of the zoo to protect the people who visit it along with the animals has been ignored.

The zoo retreated to its traditional CYA posture by hiring a public relations firm, and upon re-opening plans to post signs warning visitors not to provoke the animals. It is as though a tiger roaming at will should be considered a normal thing.

Despite credible accounts of previous escapes, zoo officials wring their hands as though they are powerless to deal with the problem. Every last one of the people who are in positions dealing with safety concerns should be sacked, and that certainly includes the zoo director.

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