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Oxford study shows zoo life inappropriate for tigers

San Francisco, Calif. – In the wake of Siberian tiger Tatiana’s escape and attack on visitors at the San Francisco Zoo–which left one person dead and two others seriously injured–PETA sent an urgent letter this morning to Manuel A. Mollinedo, executive director and president of the San Francisco Zoo, urging him to phase out the zoo’s tiger exhibit.

Since 1990, there have been more than 220 dangerous incidents in 40 states involving big cats. Four children and 15 adults have lost their lives, and more than 50 others have lost limbs or suffered other injuries after being mauled. The animals involved are victims too–75 big cats, including Tatiana, have been killed because of these incidents.

Captive tigers are forced to spend their entire lives in barren enclosures, which, on average, are 18,000 times smaller than their natural roaming range, according to an Oxford University study. The study also shows that it is simply impossible for captive tigers to express instinctual behaviors, such as staking out territory in dense forests, choosing mates, running, climbing trees, and hunting. Oxford scientists concluded that big cats–who have extraordinarily complex physical and psychological needs–become neurotic when they are confined.

“In the past, the San Francisco Zoo made the honorable decision to close its elephant exhibit and send its elephants to a sanctuary,” says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “In light of this latest tragedy, it is time for the zoo to do the right thing once again and protect its animals and the public by phasing out its tiger exhibit.”

PETA’s letter to Manuel A. Mollinedo follows.

December 26, 2007

Manuel A. Mollinedo, Executive Director and President 
San Francisco Zoo
1 Zoo Rd.
San Francisco, CA 94132-1027

1 page via fax: 415-681-2039

Dear Mr. Mollinedo:

While authorities investigate the circumstances surrounding Tatiana’s escape and the tragic mauling of several zoo visitors, PETA is asking that the zoo give serious consideration to phasing out its tiger exhibit. The San Francisco Zoo has already established itself as a facility that takes animal welfare issues seriously, including the zoo’s honorable decision in 2004 to close its elephant exhibit and send its elephants to a sanctuary.

There are some species–including tigers–that simply do not belong in captivity because of their extraordinarily complicated physical and psychological needs. Scientists at Oxford University have concluded that big cats and other wide-roaming predators become neurotic when they are confined. No “educational” program is worth sacrificing animals’ well-being.

Given that the average tiger enclosure is about 18,000 times smaller than the animals’ natural roaming range, it is simply impossible for these animals to express instinctual behaviors, such as staking out territory in dense forests, choosing mates, running, climbing trees, and hunting.

Dangerous incidents with captive big cats are not uncommon. Since 1990, there have been more than 220 such incidents involving big cats in 40 states. Four children and 15 adults have lost their lives, and more than 50 other people have lost limbs or suffered other injuries after being mauled. The animals involved are victims too–75 big cats, including Tatiana, have been killed because of these incidents.

May we please hear from you regarding this matter at your earliest convenience? I can be contacted at 757-622-7382. 

Sincerely,
Lisa Wathne
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist


For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625
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http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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