San Francisco Zoo to restart public viewing of big cats on Thursday

San Francisco Zoo to restart public viewing of big cats on Thursday

By Linda Goldston
Mercury News
Article Launched: 02/20/2008 01:53:10 PM PST

It’s been a long wait for their fans but Tony the Tiger, Kimani the lion and the rest of the big cat crew at the San Francisco Zoo will be back on display Thursday.

Even Padang, the 18-year-old Sumatran tiger who is the oldest of the zoo’s big cats, will get her turn in the renovated outdoor grottoes. Padang has been in a separate exhibit while she recovered from hip surgery.

The big cats were stuck indoors after Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, escaped from her grotto on Christmas Day and fatally mauled Carlos Sousa Jr. and injured Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, all of San Jose.

After $1.7 million in safety upgrades to the grottoes and a successful re-introduction of the animals to their modified outdoor playgrounds, a zoo official said the big cats will be back on
public display Thursday rain or shine, beginning at 10 a.m.

During the re-acclimation period, “One of them, I believe it was George the tiger, went outside and came right back in,” said Paul Garcia, zoo spokesman. “He could care less the outdoor exhibit is open.”

Zoo keepers worked hard to challenge the four lions and four tigers mentally and physically while they were confined inside. They got new toys – from treats hidden in paper bags to large plastic garbage cans to chew on – and had their digs spiced up with such delectable smells as Rhino urine and cheap perfume.

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