Ironically, the do-gooders, who may argue for absolute minimum restraints in order to foster the image of relative freedom for wild animals, may bring about the unintended consequences that occured last December at the San Francisco Zoo. On Christmas day, a trio of boys were in some way making gestures to a 250-pound Siberian tiger, Tatiana, and were the recipient of her anger when she managed to scale a fence lower than national zoo standards and have at them. One died. Two survived with injuries.
In Today’s San Francisco Examiner, by sheer coincidence there it was on the front page gazing up at me from an empty bus seat on a ride back to Showbiz David Central: TIGER SCARS REMAIN.
Despite post-tiger attack shakeups at the SF Zoo (the head honcho left) and upgrades in fencing and safety apparatus, declining ticket sales have helped produce a $2 million budget shortfall. A hiring freeze is on, and vacant positions remain vacant.
Other zoos across the country have made upgrades, too, as they are hounded to remove elephants and re frame exhibits. The world-class San Diego Zoo, just to be on the “safe side,” increased the height of its fencing one foot above the standard.
Still, out there on dismally foggy Ocean Avenue where as a kid I once gawked at the wild animals in their pens, only a few weeks ago a kid climbed over a Rhinoceros fence, endeavoring either to stroke the creature or have his photo taken with it. He was cited for disturbing the animals. The zoo has no plans to further distance the rhino from its curious fans. “If somebody wants to get over the fence, they will, “ said zoo official Bob Jenkins.
Worse to come, maybe, will be courtroom revelations when the parents of Carlos Souza Jr., whom Tatiani mauled to death, have their day in court. Their lawsuit is expected to be filed by the end of December. The two brothers who survived the rampage filed a lawsuit in federal court last month seeking damages. Claims their attorney, “they are permanently scarred by this attack.”
Another lawsuit by a zoo employee, attacked by the same tiger while she was feeding it, remains in mediation. This should quell those bleeding hearts who claimed Tatiani went after the boys only because they were taunting her. Funny, does the act of feeding a tiger also constitute a taunt?
Circuses may benefit from all this. They display the wondrous interaction between humans and animals, and they bring the animals up close, and they do it safely.
Or, of course, they could only incur more heat from the do-gooders equating them with everything that has gone tragically wrong in captivity.
Perhaps the time is again near when we will have to come to grips with a reality: wild animals are wild. We share the same planet with them, and the closer we can get -- humanely, safely -- in our interactions, the better.
[photo: Paul Dhaliwal, right, and his brother Kulbir, far left, who survived Tatian's attack last Christmas at the S.F. Zoo. AP File Photo]