Tiger Attack Response Gets Mixed Review
By MARCUS WOHLSEN
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? The organization that accredits the nation’s zoos is chiding San Francisco Zoo workers for not believing two brothers who said a tiger was on the loose and had mauled their friend. But its report, released Tuesday by the zoo, praises the institution’s overall response to the fatal December attacks.
Inspectors from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums called the actions of the zoo staff following the first reports of the tiger’s escape on Christmas Day “impressive.”
But the report also criticizes the zoo’s security supervisor for doubting the brothers, including one who was bleeding from the head, that a big cat had escaped. Association inspectors also found that because of the holiday, most of the zoo’s workers had been sent home early, leaving too few staffers.
Responding to calls that the men were at a zoo cafe seeking medical attention, the supervisor arrived to find that brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal of San Jose “are behaving erratically, possibly intoxicated,” according to the inspection report’s timeline of the incident.
The supervisor assumed there had been a fight and “does not believe that a big cat is out because of the erratic and belligerent behavior of the two guests,” the report said.
By that time, the 250-pound Siberian tiger had already killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. outside its enclosure and was roaming the zoo grounds. Minutes later, it attacked the brothers, who were kept outside the cafe by a manager who lacked a zoo radio and didn’t know a tiger had escaped, the report said.
Inspectors also found that the one zookeeper on the scene who was trained as a shooter in animal escapes did not have keys to where a shotgun was stored. He was able to retrieve the weapon only with the help of a veterinarian who had left for the day and returned because she had forgotten to complete a report.
The tiger was fatally shot by police about 20 minutes after the brothers first reported they had been attacked, according to police and zoo timelines.
The attacks came just over a year after the same tiger devoured the arm of a zookeeper during a feeding.
“The zoo is too often chasing problems rather than proactively addressing known concerns,” the report said. “This will require a shift in culture and the supervisory and maintenance staff to make it happen.”
The report was released by the zoo and represents its most detailed account of the attacks. According to association spokesman Steve Feldman, the zoo’s release consists of excerpts of the complete report, which remains confidential between the group and the zoo.
“They’ve accurately summarized the findings from those documents,” Feldman said. “The fact that we’ve maintained the zoo’s accreditation also speaks for itself.”
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