Lowry Zoo Shoots Tiger
Lowry Park Zoo personnel carry Enshala’s carcass. The tiger was attempting to scale a wall before she was shot and killed.
MAURICE CAPOBIANCO / WFLA
By MARI ROBYN JONES The Tampa Tribune
Published: Aug 23, 2006
TAMPA – An unlocked cage at Lowry Park Zoo led to an endangered female tiger being shot to death by the zoo’s chief executive Tuesday.
Enshala, a Sumatran tiger, escaped from an enclosure in the Asian Domain, an area that has been closed for renovations. A zookeeper was in the process of securing the tiger for the night and left the door unlatched shortly before the zoo’s closing time.
Enshala slipped through a door, went through an empty adjoining building and into a construction area about 4:45 p.m. The area was not accessible to the public, President and Chief Executive Officer Lex Salisbury said.
Zoo veterinarian David Murphy shot a tranquilizer dart at the animal, but it didn’t work, causing her to become agitated, he said.
She began scaling a 7-foot wall near Murphy. She would have entered a public area and at that point became a threat to public safety, officials said.
A couple of dozen people were in the park when Enshala escaped, spokeswoman Rachel Nelson said. They were escorted from zoo property or secured inside buildings.
Salisbury shot Enshala with a 12-gauge shotgun, but she kept moving, he said. He shot three more times before she died.
"I feel sick to my stomach that I had to do it," Salisbury said. "I’ve known this cat since it was born. And it’s the last thing I would want to have to do."
He had been on his way home when he was called back to handle the situation. He said he’s one of 10 people at the zoo trained by law enforcement to use weapons to deal with dangerous animals.
The tranquilizer probably didn’t work because the cat’s adrenaline counteracted the effects, said Carole Baskin, chief executive officer and founder of Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary for tigers, lions and leopards in northwestern Hillsborough County.
Even when a tiger is not excited, it takes 20 to 30 minutes before a tranquilizer takes effect, she said.
It was the first time a carnivore has escaped at the zoo and the first time Salisbury had to kill an animal in his 20-year tenure.
Salisbury said the zoo is committed to the public’s safety and will investigate the incident. The investigation’s outcome could cost the zookeeper his or her job, he said.
Enshala’s father was imported from Holland, and she was born nearly 15 years ago at the park. She belongs to an endangered subspecies of tiger that primarily lives on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
She weighed 180 to 200 pounds, Salisbury said. She was one of two tigers at the zoo. Officials said she was an "old cat" and one of the cats who had been there longest. They said she could have lived four more years.
Scientists believe about 400 wild Sumatran tigers exist, primarily in the island’s five national parks. About 210 captive animals live in zoos worldwide, according to World Wildlife Federation and the Save the Tiger Fund.
"It’s a sad loss for the species," Baskin said. "To be shot for doing what comes natural to you is just wrong. It’s always human error that causes these animals to be destroyed."
Researcher Buddy Jaudon contributed to this report. Reporter Mari Robyn Jones can be reached at (813) 259-7638.
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