Zoos’ daily tiger records paint portrait of Tatiana
By Linda Goldston
Article Launched: 01/14/2008 02:58:03 AM PST
SAN JOSE — Her death made her a household name, but Tatiana had won many hearts in Denver and the Bay Area before the controversy about her escape in the San Francisco Zoo.
The Siberian tiger and her siblings were stars when they were born at the Denver Zoo in 2003, the first tiger cubs to be born in the Mile High City in nine years.
A “cub cam” tried to document their every move but the tiger trio was either “doing the big snooze” or they were constantly on the go, outside camera range, said Ana Bowie, spokeswoman for the Denver Zoo, who remembers the excitement when the cubs were born.
“It was a very celebrated birth,” Bowie said.
Daily logs about those happier times were released this week as part of a public records request — Tatiana’s first recorded weight was 9 pounds, 9 ounces; diet meatballs were used to train her to stay calm during vaccinations. The records also included her necropsy report — three bullet wounds were found on her body; she weighed 243 pounds when she died.
Controversy will swirl for some time about Tatiana’s escape from the tiger grotto at San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day. Carlos Sousa Jr., the 17-year-old San Jose teen she fatally mauled, was laid to rest Tuesday. Two of his friends, brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, and Paul Dhaliwal, 19, are recovering from their injuries and have hired an attorney.
After Tatiana was killed by San Francisco police, the zoo started receiving e-mails, letters and donations from around the world. Some wanted to remember their favorite tiger, some wanted to honor an endangered species and some even wanted to be volunteers at the zoo in Tatiana’s memory.
“So something positive can come out of this,” said Lora LaMarca, spokeswoman for the zoo.
The zoo’s Adopt An Animal fundraising program already had 200 Siberian tiger “zoo parents,” but several more asked to join after Tatiana’s death.
“We received a number of additional Siberian tiger ‘adoptions,'” said Katheryne Erigero, director of the Adopt An Animal program. “Individuals wanting to make contributions to benefit Tony, Tatiana’s companion, and honor Tatiana.”
One of only 147 Siberian tigers in North American accredited zoos, Tatiana had been donated to the San Francisco Zoo in hopes her bloodline would be continued. She was paired with Tony, the 15-year-old Siberian tiger already at the zoo.
Many zoos, including Denver, call the animals Amur tigers, which better represents the region of Siberia, near the Amur River, where Siberian tigers live. There are only 300-400 of them left in the wild, according to the most recent census, said Ron Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo. Tilson also runs the tiger breeding program for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
When they were born June 27, 2004, Tatiana and her siblings were strong, healthy cubs. Their zookeeper had the privilege of naming them and chose Tatiana for the smallest of the litter. Her sister — at 10 pounds, 2 ounces — was named Mariette, and their brother — at 10 pounds, 6 ounces — was named Waldemere.
Tatiana’s parents and her brother are still at the Denver Zoo. Her sister, Mariette, is now at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis.
“She was the lightest of the three, but she was very close to her sister’s weight,” Bowie said. “But size did not deter her at all from being the dominant cub of the group. She was by far the most curious, very gutsy, the first one to follow their mother around.
“And she was smart.”
Tatiana’s mother was a doting parent and required no assistance from zookeepers, according to zoo records. It was noted that she groomed her cubs too much at times, leaving the hair a little thin on the backs of their necks.
The records also document the cubs being trained to respond to “down,” “sit” and “up,” although on at least one day, “Waldemere more interested in playing than training.”
The three cubs delighted crowds with their “big milk bellies,” Bowie said. “When they’d lay on their backs, you’d see their fat little bellies. They were good little nursers.”
Tatiana was donated to the San Francisco Zoo on Dec. 15, 2005.
Tony, the San Francisco zoo’s other Siberian tiger, had lost his mate, Emily, in 2004, when she died of cancer. The arrival of Tatiana “gave him a new lease on life,” said LaMarca, the zoo’s spokeswoman. “They were very playful, got along really well.”
Zoo records note the two mated several times but no cubs were born.
A month after Tatiana arrived, her keepers noted she was “very vocal and active.”
Until she grabbed for a keeper’s arm just about a year ago, after the woman dropped the meat she was feeding the tiger under the bars, Tatiana had not made any headlines in San Francisco. Immediately after that mauling, records noted a “change in personality.” She started “reaching out under the lower bars at people.” But by the next day, she was exhibiting “normal behavior” and ate well, without signs of aggression.
After all the headlines and broadcasts about Tatiana in the wake of her escape and the maulings, “there was a bit of public outcry in Denver,” Bowie said. “A number of people were frustrated by the local coverage. It was like ‘shame on you, don’t mess with our memory.”
For The Tiger
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