Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

San Francisco Tiger Talk

I had a conversation at work yesterday regarding the San Francisco tiger tragedy. I call it a tragedy because it is a tragedy on both sides of the human/animal divide.

The circumstances of the attack are still being investigated and, of course, the finger-pointing has already started. We may eventually know what happened from the two surviving victims....or we may never know. However, I think there are a few indisputable conclusions that come out of this whole story. (I know, using the word "indisputable" is probably begging for some disputing!)

1. Animals must be protected from stupid zoo visitors...and stupid zoo visitors must be protected from themselves. I'm not saying these three young men did anything wrong. There's not enough evidence for me to say. However, even if they themselves are completely innocent, there are many, many stupid zoo visitors out there who are not. For some unknowable reason, there are both male and female visitors around the world that sometimes want to taunt an animal. Or they want to test their courage by climbing into that enclosure for that picture or by sticking their hand through those cage bars. Zoos must plan for this. In whatever manner, zoos have to evaluate their set-up to make sure the animals are protected from this occurrence and that the stupid zoo visitors can't get themselves injured even if they try. Because they will try.

2. Wild animals are always wild at heart.
If a zoo or any place thinks that it can domesticate an animal's wild instincts, part of their very genetic wiring, then they are deluding themselves. No matter how well a keeper may know an individual animal, that animal will always be fundamentally driven by instinct. Zoos need to understand this and respect that. When they take that animal into custody within their walls, they are ultimately responsible for that behavior.

3. An animal that kills a human being will be put down.They just will. I think it's terrible that a magnificent creature like Tatiana was put down for simply behaving like a tiger. The zoo is responsible for her actions, not her. I think she should have lived. However, let's be realistic. Public relations-wise, the zoo would be pilloried for allowing Tatiana to live after she killed a human. Letting her live would dredge up the people vs animals debate. She would have to be under uber-security and who knows what the quality of life consequences would be for her. This is not even mentioning the increased liability and insurance costs for the zoo. Remember, a dog that attacks a human is put down too and that's a "domesticated" animal.

4. People will obsess over, discuss and fear the rare man-killing tiger incident rather than the more likely incident of being killed by their own fellow species. It amazed me that two people in my office were so interested in the tiger attack. They were also fearful of it as though it could happen here. It shows that we humans still have that fear of the predatory animal ingrained in us (why is probably why we are so eager to cull and control it). This was also the same day that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. And 6 humans were killed by a member of their family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, WA.

Sorry, it's human on human violence that we should fear. That's where our attention and fear should be focussed.

Photo by soachs.


Anonymous said...

The media missed the story here entirely. I've not seen one story on the zero tolerance for taunting domestic or wild animals. The loss of a Siberan Tiger has global impact and loss for generations to come. I've been to the SF Zoo many times and I have no fear and don't see the zoo is at fault. I also feel the families of the victims are out of touch. Why don't you have a better grip on your teenagers friends, whereabouts etc. Why would they be at the Zoo on Christmas Day vs with their family? The truth will come out. I wouldn't be surprised if these three were high on drugs and thought it would be fun to mess with the animals at the zoo. The media have glossed over their previous public behavior so I wouldn't be surprised that they were high on something. The Zoo owes no one an appolgy. We need to respect the zoos and zoologist that are protecting amazing animals that are near disctinction. The three stooges responsible for the death of a beautiful tiger do not deserve any more media attention.

Fed up in San Jose.

Anonymous said...

My two year old daughter and I visit the SF zoo weekly and feel very safe there and will continue to go. I agree that human violence is much more of a concern. In the history of zoos, this is the first time a visitor has been killed (indeed, very sad and tragic), but how many people have been shot going to a mall? And, people still go to the mall everyday...just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that the enclosure at SF should have been designed properly. There is a good cartoon about this on

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