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Tiger Attacks Zoo Visitors at San Francisco Zoo
2007 Tiger Attack

A tiger attacked three zoo visitors at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day of 2007. Tatiana, a Siberian tiger who only a year previously attacked her keeper, killed one man onsite and injured two others after escaping from her enclosure.

Details are currently under investigation but it is suspected that she took a lucky leap to escape onto zoo grounds. Zoo officials found the grotto moat and wall measurements to be below the industry standards. One theory is that the visitors had been taunting the tiger. Links to news stories will follow.

Tiger Attacks Keeper at San Francisco Zoo
2006 Tiger Attack

A tiger attack on a zoo keeper at the San Francisco Zoo occurred in the historic lion house. Tatiana, the female tiger brought to the zoo as a mate for Tony the tiger, grabbed her keeper during the regular feeding exhibition. 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.

Staff rewarded escalated possessiveness surrounding feeding the predatory carnivores as part of the "show" for the public. This is an ancient type of exhibit showmanship I have not seen in ages.

If you take a look at the photo 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--sometimes grabbing at anything within reach--which is what I believe the case was in this attack.

  lion house  

The tiger grabbed the keeper as she conversed with the public during feeding time. I suspect she was distracted and too close to the cage in narrow pathway between the front of the exhibit bars and the safety barrier to keep the public from getting too close to caging.

The tiger attack is still under investigation but one zoo spokesperson was quoted as saying that the tiger might have been attempting to "play" with the zoo keeper. If that statement is true, that is probably the most uneducated statement that I have heard in the history of my career.

Wild animals remain wild even if they are reared in captivity. When predatory carnivores are fed, the instinctive behavior of possessive aggression escalates. They will defend their food or grab at their meal with ferocious intensity. Since the attack occurred during feeding I suspect that this is the case.

Captive tiger Attacks are most often due to human Error. In this particular case Cal-OSHA's determination against the San Franciso Zoo regarding the tiger attack was not reported until June 22, 2007. San Francisco Zoo was found at fault--and my theory was correct--the access to the zoo keeper through the bars was a contributor to the incident.

This is a close up from the San Francisco Lion House. More photos of the San Francisco Lion House can be accessed here.

2006 San Francisco Lion House Tiger Attack

KCBS Reports 2006 Tiger Attack at San Francisco Zoo Lion House

CBS Report: 2006 Tiger Attack

2006 San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attack

San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attack Investigation

Zoo Tiger Attack Witness Report...

SF Zoo Spokesperson Quoted...

Zoo Tiger Attack at Feeding...

SF Chronicle Tiger Attack Follow Up Story...

Blogging on the SF Lion House...


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Guerrero Ink: Freelance Animal Writer

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