Thursday, January 3, 2008

San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attack: Blaming the Victims

The current debate over the mauling of two brothers and fatal attack of 17-year-old young man by a Siberian tiger at the San Franciso Zoo is not whether the zoo's tiger grotto walls were high enough to keep a tiger inside its enclosure but whether the young men had "taunted" the tiger.

That this incident of purported "taunting" mitigates the zoo's responsibility to ensure the animals are unable to escape their exhibits and puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the young men, one of whom is now dead.

In a San Francisco Chronicle article, zoo patron Jennifer Miller reported that she, her husband and children saw four young men at the big cat grottos and that three of the men were teasing the lions. Ms. Miller said that she called the zoo to report the obvious "taunting."
"The boys, especially the older one, were roaring at them. He was taunting them," the San Francisco woman said. "They were trying to get that lion's attention. ... The lion was bristling, so I just said, 'Come on, let's get out of here' because my kids were disturbed by it.
Miller called their behavior "disturbing."
Her family was looking at the lions when the young men stopped beside them at the big-cat grottos - five outdoor exhibits attached to the Lion House. The young men started roaring at the lions and acting "boisterous" to get their attention, said Miller, who added that she watched the four for five minutes or so a little after 4 p.m.

"It was why we left," she said. "Their behavior was disturbing. They kept doing it."
While we agree that "taunting" or "teasing" zoo animals is wrong we also believe the level of teasing, i.e., "roaring" at the tigers, doesn't rise to the level of relieving the zoo of its inherent responsibility. That of ensuring the animal's enclosures are built to withstand an animal trying to escape. The zoo's director stated that the walls of the tiger's grotto were only 12.5ft., well below the standard height of at "least" 16.5ft tall.

The zoo also plans to install signs which tell patrons they are "guests" in the animal's home.
Help make the zoo a safe environment," the signs state. "The magnificent animals in the zoo are wild and possess all their natural instincts. You are a guest in their home. Please remember they are sensitive and have feelings. PLEASE don't tap on glass, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to them."
The animals kept in captivity might have a differing viewpoint. As for the "sensitive" and "have feelings," tigers are a carnivore and might feel like a patron snack every now and then.

Again, it is the zoo's responsibility to ensure that not only the animals are safe but also the patrons who visit.

People are known to taunt or tease the animals, that's why in just about every zoo across the country there are signs already posted.

A warning sign will never replace a wall built low enough for a 350 pound Siberian tiger to scale, whatever its "reasons" for doing so.

Tigers might be "sensitive" and "have feelings" but they are also carnivores and it's a myth that they are inherently safe unless you tease them.

If this little piece of "logic" were true then the same "logic" would have to be applied to an earlier attack in September by the same tiger. The victim, zookeeper Lori Komejan, was mauled by the tiger at feeding time. Was Lori "taunting" or "teasing" the tiger too?

According to a story by UPI on September 7, the zoo had reopened its tiger and lion exhibit after spending $250,000 in safety upgrades to the "dining hall" area. A zookeeper filed a lawsuit alleging that better security could have prevented an attack by a Siberian tiger back in December.

The tiger severely injured Lori Komejan when it managed to tear away the tendon tissue on her right arm. DBKP - Horror at San Francisco Zoo
Perhaps the zoo will put up a sign in the tiger's grotto:
Help make the zoo a safe environment. The weak animals who visit the zoo are wild and possess all their natural instincts. They are a guest in your home. Please remember they can be insensitive and unfeeling. PLEASE don't attack if they tap on glass, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to you."
But then again, tigers cannot read.

Hat Tip: Awa Puhi

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