A tiger attack on a zoo keeper at the San Francisco Zoo occurred in the historic lion house. A flash back to the past, this zoo continues an old exhibition tradition surrounding the feeding of the big cats.
Sometime back on a visit to the San Francisco Zoo I was called upon to take a look at Tony the tiger (for stereotypic behavior) and was invited to witness the behavior during feeding time. Staff on hand maintained an old circus like showmanship approach to the feeding and crowds clammered to get a look a the fierce beasts. I am surprized that the practice still exists.
If you take a look at the photos here you can see that a cat could get his or her paws out of the enclosure and grab someone standing within range. Big cats exhibit fierce possessive behavior during feeding time–grabbing at anything within range.
In my early years at an animal acting facility, we fed the big cats from under the bottom cage bar and stood quite a way back due to the risk. Instinctual behavior surrounding feeding is possessive and highly charged.
The old timers said that most wild animals have about seven times the strength per pound of body weight–I am not sure this has been actually documented but the strength is beyond the comprehension of most people–and humbling.
Take a look at these photos of the San Francisco Zoo’s Lion House–you can see how any big cat could get his or her paws through to grab any keeper close enough to the caging.
These are close ups and more photos of the San Francisco Lion House can be accessed here.
A few of the incident articles:
KCBS Reports Tiger Attack at San Francisco Zoo Lion House