Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Tiger Attack
--Randi Kaye, 360 Correspondent

I was working Christmas when we got the breaking news about the tiger escape at the San Francisco Zoo.

As I reported it on the air, I thought about that big cat, which by that time had been shot and killed.

Made me wonder, as I have many times before, about zoos and whether or not they do damage to the psyche of a great big beautiful beast like a tiger.

How many times have you gone to zoos and watched these animals pace back and forth in their cages? It's the same thing with gorillas. I find it painful to watch. It's just not natural.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. The AP's list of recent attacks is below. Would that tiger have behaved differently if he had been allowed to live in his own natural environment.

What do you think?

Recent attacks at US Zoos
Source: The Associated Press

Dec. 25, 2007: A Siberian tiger named Tatiana escapes from its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo, killing one man and mauling two others, before being shot dead.

Feb. 24, 2007: A 140-pound jaguar named Jorge fatally mauls a zookeeper at the Denver Zoo before being fatally shot. Zoo officials said later that zookeeper Ashlee Pfaff had violated the rules by opening the door to the animal's cage.

Dec. 22, 2006: Tatiana reaches through her cage's iron bars and mauls a female zookeeper during a public feeding at the San Francisco Zoo.

Dec. 22, 2006: The National Zoo in Washington is briefly shut down after a clouded leopard bolts from a wire-mesh enclosure. It is found snoozing just outside the exhibit 30 minutes later.

Sept. 10, 2005: Three chimpanzees from Zoo Nebraska are shot and killed after they escape from their enclosure and could not be captured. A padlock on the cage was not completely closed after being cleaned, officials at the zoo in Royal, Neb., said.

March 3, 2005: Two chimpanzees at the Animal Ranch wildlife sanctuary near Bakersfield, Calif., attack a man and his wife, maiming the man, before being shot to death.

July 13, 2004: A state wildlife officer fatally shoots a 600 pound tiger that escaped from the property of former Tarzan actor Steve Sipek in Loxahatchee, Fla.

March 18, 2004: A 340-pound gorilla named Jabari breaks out of its enclosure at the Wilds of Africa exhibit at the Dallas Zoo and goes on a 40-minute rampage through a forest, snatching up a toddler with his teeth and attacking three other people before being shot to death by officers.

Oct. 3, 2003: Illusionist Roy Horn is severely mauled by a tiger during the Siegfried & Roy nightly show at The Mirage casino in Las Vegas, biting him in the neck and dragging him off stage.

Sept. 28, 2003: A 300-pound gorilla named Little Joe escapes from its enclosure at Boston's Franklin Park Zoo, attacking a 2-year-old girl and a teen-age zoo employee, before being tranquilized. It was the second time in two months that the animal escaped.

Posted By CNN: 10:03 AM ET
You had to work on Christmas!? Poor thing you!!

I think having the tigers caged up does mess with their minds! I think being in that small enclosure makes them very stressed out and that makes them more apt to attack someone. But I think if the zoo has them in more of a natural habitat setting like the Atlanta Zoo then that can be less stressful because it's more like them being out in the wild. But most of these tigers and other animals are born and bred in a zoo and know nothing of the outside world. That has to account for something also. You can't miss what you have never known.

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 10:20 AM ET
An animal is better being free. However, I think there are times when certain animals have benefits from captivity, especially if it's endangered. Other than that, perhaps we should always remember just how dangerous it is to throw the public into the world of wild animals and somehow be shocked when they stike back.

Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.
Posted By Blogger Lorie Ann : 10:55 AM ET
A zoo is not a natural habitat for wild animals. What do we expect when we as the stewart animals of the planet, cage wild animals against their will for public entertainment?
Humans are not the only sentient beings on earth, we just act like we are.~
Betty Ann
Posted By Blogger Betty Ann : 11:17 AM ET
Hi Randi,
I live in the neighborhood near the San Francisco Zoo, and I must say that last night was filled with chaos. We watched most of what was going on thru our window, but the local media didn't give out much information of what to do. Should we shelter in place, how many animals got out, how serious it was, etc. The other fact that was slow in being announced was that this is the same tiger that escaped last Dec. 22 from the SF Zoo, and attacked a trainer.

The SFPD & SFFD were great in getting things under control, but again the people who lived in the area were not told much about the situation which was not good because at that time a lot of people were coming and going on their way to Christmas dinner.

We pretty much figured that the tiger would head towards Golden Gate Park, where it could hide/hunt in the park. The whole scene was a little surreal, like the Robin Williams movie "Jumanji", with exotic animals on the loose!

It gives a whole new meaning to the tune "I Left My Heart In San Francsico!"
Posted By Blogger Ellen : 11:20 AM ET
Randi, this is a tough question. It's enjoyable to visit the zoo and zoos have changed considerably over the years. I can remember as a little girl visiting a zoo and seeing an elephant with their foot chained to a cement tab and feeling bad because I thought the animal was in jail. I think zoos are great for awareness and education but putting a wild animal in a cage or behind bars is not something I generally find appealing. Even if the zoos put the animals in their natural habitats, they are still held in captivity. This unfortunate tragedy occurred because of human error, not the animal; the tiger was just being himself.
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 12:01 PM ET
As natural as they try to make the zoo habitats for the animals - these are normally free-ranging animals who soon learn that their territory is extremely limited. Time and time again we are told that we can't domesticate these animals and I think zoos don't make that fact any different. They somehow know they are 'caged' [no matter how fancy they make the cage] and hence, most don't even breed within their limited confines - it's unnatural. The fact happens to be that these are animals meant for the wild and for the sake of their continued survival, be kept in their own wild habitats. I understand people want to see these animals, but aren't zoos just another form of exploitation?
Posted By Blogger IMGINGER : 12:11 PM ET
It's sad that the habitats animals like tigers and gorillas and leopards can live peacefully in are disappearing too quickly for the animals to adapt to the change. I hate to say it, but zoos often seem like the only way to keep precious wildlife alive; it's even worse that these animals hate being in captivity.
Events like the mauling last night, which I heard about while watching AC's "Planet in Peril," are a catch-22 for environmentalists and animal rights activists, as well as the ordinary, average citizen. As we fight to keep the animals alive and their habitats safe, they, out of fear, aggression, and even boredom, injure the very people trying to help them.
Posted By Anonymous Christianna : 12:28 PM ET

Visiting a zoo is one of my least favorite things to do. It is never at the top of my list of things to do either at home or when traveling. I always feel so sorry for the animals pacing back and forth back and forth. The Wild Animal Park in San Diego is an exception. The animals there have lots of space to roam and the park has tried to replicate the original habitat.

I was shocked to hear about the tiger attack. I really thought something like that couldn't happen in today's zoos. The attack won't change anything. This will be labeled a fluke and it will be business as usual in the name of conservation. Maybe zoos are OK in the big picture; they still will not be on my to do list.
Posted By Blogger Charlotte : 12:50 PM ET
Hi Randi, thank you for your report. I believe wild animals belong in their natural environment. The only time they belong in a controlled environment like a zoo is if they're injured, need to be cared for and can't go back in the wild because of their injury, or if they're endangered and they're being bred to increase their population. Wild animals deserve our respect and we should treasure and love them for the amazing creatures as they are...from a distance.

Thanks and hope you had a great holiday,

Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Blogger Lilibeth : 1:33 PM ET
They are wild animals! Not only are they wild, they are caged and watched practically 27-7. It is a sad reality that when you deal with wild animals, attacks and accidents will happen.
Posted By Anonymous Jess, Paris, KY : 1:54 PM ET
My deepest sympathies to the family of the person attacked. I am neutral about zoos; yes, they're fascinating, but we try to tame and control nature by making wild animals act civilized, but it's not meant to be that way. If you put a predator in a cage, it's going to rebel.
Posted By Anonymous Laura Tulsa, OK : 2:04 PM ET
Wild animals are called wild animals for a reason. I think even those born in captivity will always have some instinct that says they should be free. We have a right to protect them from harm and allow them to be what nature intended. Being in an enclosed space is not what was intended. Imagine if the roles reversed and we were fed in an environmentally friendly enclosed space and the lions and gorillas got to stare us down, poke fingers at us, run baby strollers through our homes with the screaming two-year old in tow, and call it entertainment?
Posted By Anonymous Tammy, Berwick, LA : 2:34 PM ET
Im sorry this happened again, but look at it from another view. You can't expect a human to live in a wild place and survive with animals. Why do we want animals to show "human" behavior?
Posted By Anonymous aj huntington ny. : 2:42 PM ET
Animals have a right to prey on other forms of life. Why are we so shocked when they do so?
Posted By Anonymous becky, dalton, ga. : 2:47 PM ET
Haven't we learned yet that most animals aren't choosy about their prey?... it's sad when a human gets in the way, but if we want to change the way animals act, it would mess up the natural order of things.
Posted By Anonymous Dorsey S, - Wilmington, N.C. : 2:50 PM ET
I'm of the opinion that the wildest animals are better observed on film, or in their natural homes. Why do we want animals to act human?? We can't expect that of them. They're NOT human!
Posted By Anonymous Fran - Helena, Mt. : 2:57 PM ET
When animals escape it's because they know they're not supposed to be in those cages. They're actually smarter than us humans, in a way, for trying to escape.
Posted By Anonymous Sara L, Milwaukee, WI : 2:59 PM ET
Let's see... cats can jump and they can swim (even though they don't like water) and they definitely can climb. The question then, is why did it take so long for something like this to happen?
Posted By Anonymous bob c -- denver co. : 3:02 PM ET
Animals are people , too. They don't deserve to be caged and stared at by thousands of people every day, who yell and point at them.
Posted By Anonymous Cary - Lowell, IN. : 3:08 PM ET
Hi Randi, i have to agree, its not fair to these amaizing animals, they are not ment to be caged, but should be able to be in their natural surrounding and habitat!How would we feel to be all caged up??
Posted By Blogger Laura-Kate : 3:10 PM ET
If we could just put ourselves in their paws for a moment, and imagine what we would feel like to wake up in a cage everyday - to be sorted by our races and ethnic backgrounds... we would all go insane, which is what happens to these poor creatures.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Detroit, Mi. : 3:11 PM ET
Poor tiger, he was a long way from home. The only purpose of a zoo should be to conduct captive breeding programs for endangered species.
Posted By Anonymous Heather P, Springfield, Ma. : 3:15 PM ET
Zoos are depressing. All those animals locked up not knowing what happened to them, or what they did to get a lifelong prison sentence.
Posted By Anonymous Justin Krol, Austin Tx. : 3:17 PM ET

As much as I love animals I do not visit zoos. When I was a child it always bothered me to watch the animals pacing up and down in their cages at the zoo, then one day I made eye contact with a gorilla and I experienced a profound sadness that I remember to this day. I felt as if he reached right down into my soul. I now support organizations that work to keep wild animals free. I even adopted an infant gorilla from the DFGFI this Christmas.

You made an excellent point when you asked if this tiger would have behaved differently "if he had been allowed to live in his own natural environment." I believe that he would have acted differently; the added stress of being caged and watched by people must be unbearable. These animals are wild and meant to roam free. Even though many of them are born in captivity it does not negate the fact that their instincts are still wild.

This incident brought to mind a quote by George Bernard Shaw:

"When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity."

Jo Ann
North Royalton, Ohio
Posted By Blogger Jo Ann : 3:30 PM ET
I too live near the San Francisco Zoo, and this is a disaster that never should have happened. This same tiger got loose and attacked his trainer almost a year to the day, De. 22, 2006. As a native San Franciscan, I support my city, however the zoo is a series of mistakes, one after the other and accidents waiting to happen. The other issue here, is that the SF Zoo is located and surrounded by a residentual neighborhood. There isn't much of a plan for the residents when these things happen.

We watched from a window as well, and I must commend the SFFD on a job well done. I also grieve for the family of the victim and those injured because this was an accident that didn't have to happen.
Posted By Anonymous Kelli, San Francisco : 3:33 PM ET
Zoos are a poor substitute for the natural habititat of wild animals. With continued habitat loss because of the encroachment of humans, sometmes a zoo is the only place a wild animal has left -which is a very sorry state of affairs. We can only hope that seeing wild animals in the zoo will help people appriciate the animals and help in the effort to keep the animals from extinction and in the wild.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 4:51 PM ET
My sympathies to the families of the injured people. Also, my sympathies to the great Siberian tiger family-they have lost one of their own , as well. Wild animals are supposed to roam free in their natural habitat, instaed they are being catured and held behind the bars for human amusment. I have a domestic cat, and if it does not go out for a few days, it pounces on me. A tiger was just being himself.
Posted By Anonymous sam : 6:29 PM ET
i believe that animals were not put on the earth for our entainment. how would we react if someone bigger than we are or at lease with more power put us in cages. just so they could watch our every move? we are suppost to take care of the animals & our planet. not exploit it. i`ve often thought God should had stopped with animals.the earth would still be the way it was meant to be. but that`s another sitution we`ll never take to task. humans have far too much ego to think anything that goes awry is our own fault, don`t we ? tanja, w.v.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 6:49 PM ET
in recent months i have felt conflicted on whether or not zoos and habitats such as those are a good idea. it's a nice learning and eased environment for those who want to look at and learn about animals and wildlife, yet at the same time i feel bad for the animals and want them to be free. what's the answer? i'm not sure. i feel absolutely horrible about what happened in san francisco and my heart goes out to the families.
Posted By Blogger jacquelyn : 7:50 PM ET
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Posted By Anonymous Razi Junaidi : 5:14 AM ET
My first visit to the SF Zoo was back in the 70's when I was five or six and the expereience of seeing animals confined in these unnatural environment shaped my views of zoos and animal parks.

The vivid memory is an image of an elephant and its young in the holding area made of concrete and separated by a thick, sliding metal door. I vividly recall the adult repeatedly banging it's head against the door and the two found the door slightly ajar towards the front viewing area, just wide enough to reach each others trunks to embrace because they couldn't see each other. I remember my mother trying to find a keeper to alert them.

During the same visit we went to see the gorillas and chimpanzees. I remember watching one chimp hanging from a large, leafless tree trunk, seemingly eating something. After a few minutes, I realized it just kept spitting out whatever it was eating into its hand and then eating it again, over and over again until we finally left.

I don't don't recall anything else from that day and the only thing about the zoo I thought was really cool were these blue, plastic keys shaped like elephants. You would insert the trunk of the elephant into keyholes of these voice boxes at various exhibits that gave info on the animals. As a kid of the 70s, this was real cutting edge technology.

Though there have been great improvements in the treatment and care of animals in these facilities, I still avoid visiting them because there is nothing sadder to me than seeing birds not being able to fly in the open sky or a magnificent lion being thrown a chunk of meat instead of being able to hunt down there food in the wild.

I've always had a dark and macabre side and a part of me thinks the tiger is in a better place in death than in a cage. I can't say the same thing for its victim, but it goes to show that respect for wild animals should be instilled in a child at a young age.
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