Zoo Denies Tiger Underfed Before Attack

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Zoo Denies Tiger Underfed Before Attack

By Ivan Velinov
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff
Jul 01, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—San Francisco Zoo officials disputed a report, that Tatiana, a female Siberian Tiger that mauled a teenage visitor of the zoo in December, might have been fed less and was hungry before the deadly attack.

Last week, zoo officials published a statement in response to a KCBS radio report which claimed that Tatiana had allegedly lost at least 50 pounds since her arrival at the San Francisco Zoo. The radio report raised concerns that the tiger might have been fed less than in her previous home in Denver which might have been a factor that triggered her aggressive attack.

“The autopsy shows that she was in a good nutritional state and good body state. KCBS just chose to leave those things out; they took a little bit of information, talked to the so-called experts until they got the answers they wanted, and turned it into a headline story,” said Lora LaMarka, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

In the report, the radio stated that zoo records show that Tatiana arrived in San Francisco in December 2005 weighing 292 pounds based on zoo records. The tiger was entering the prime of her life at two and a half years when she was shot by the police during the fatal mauling in December 2007. She weighed 242 pounds when she was killed, according to the radio investigation.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, zoo officials called the report that Tatiana was underfed at the time of her death, and not cared for properly “incredibly disappointing.”

Dr. Jacqueline Jencek, chief veterinarian, stated that the tiger’s behavior and weight were in line with that of a Siberian tiger of her age. She had adequate fat stores at autopsy. An animal that is chronically underfed would not have these fat stores as she did and every animal diet is adjusted accordingly based on each individual animal’s needs, according to Jensek.

“The animal keepers and veterinary caretakers at the San Francisco Zoo pamper and love these animals, as if they were a member of their own family,” the zoo statement said.

Teenager Carlos Sousa was visiting the zoo on Christmas Day when the tiger escaped from her enclosure. When the mauling occurred Sousa was with his brother Kulbir, 23, and a friend Paul Dhaliwal, 19.

A toxicology report released in June, revealed that the fatally mauled teenager tested positive for marijuana and alcohol.

Tatiana’s autopsy found that her hind claws were frayed, suggesting she escaped by climbing over the wall of her enclosure to reach the three young men. There were allegations that the trio taunted and provoked the tiger, but the San Francisco investigation did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

This incident, however, revealed that the wall of the tiger’s enclosure was four feet shorter than the required industry standard and the zoo since than has spent $1.7 million on renovations to beef up its safety.

The fence now stands at 16.4 feet, as a contrast to the 12 feet it stood at when the deadly attack occurred.

Another accident that involved Tatiana occurred one year earlier. On Dec. 22, 2006, former zookeeper Lori Komejan had been clawed and bitten by the tiger during a feeding and suffered serious injuries. She never returned to work and filed a lawsuit.

Both the Sousa family and Dhaliwal family have filed claims against the City of San Francisco. The City has denied those claims, setting the stage for a long and protracted lawsuit.


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