Tiger Attack at S.F. Zoo!
At least the Tiger got one before biting the bullet
The Story and the Tiger
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR
It’s not everyday that a 350-pound tiger breaks out of its cage and runs loose in the United States. Now imagine that tiger running rampant in a zoo and attacking three people, killing one of them and sending the other two to a hospital with bite marks and deep wounds before the animal could be shot dead by police officers.
It sounds beyond reality, as if pulled straight from a horror movie. But this grisly scene unfolded yesterday at the San Francisco zoo, after a Siberian tiger somehow escaped from its grotto while dozens of people lingered inside the zoo just after closing time around 5 p.m.
After getting out of its enclosure, the tiger, a 4-year-old female named Tatiana, attacked and killed an unidentified man in his 20’s. It then found its way to the Terrace Cafe restaurant about 300 yards away and leaped on two other zoo patrons — a 19-year-old man and his 23-year-old brother — attacking them with its claws and teeth. When the police arrived moments later, they found the two men bloodied and injured, with the tiger sitting next to one of them. As the officers approached, the tiger apparently resumed its attack, forcing the officers to shoot and kill the animal.
At a news conference this afternoon, a doctor who treated the two brothers said their conditions had been updated from serious to stable.
Rochelle Dickson, an emergency room surgeon at San Francisco General, said the two had suffered deep wounds from “a combination of claw and tooth attack,” but that she could not release any more details of their injuries to respect their privacy.
“Thus far, we’re really just trying to soothe them and ease their fears,” she said. “I think they’ll really do well as far as any scarring, and I don’t think they’ll have any lasting effects.”
She said they were awake and talking but were not granting any interviews.
Investigators are still sorting through a number of questions, like how exactly Tatiana escaped from her enclosure — a grotto surrounded by a 15-foot-wide moat and a 20-foot-high wall — and whether something prompted her to go on the attack. In the wild, tigers are known to avoid humans unless they feel threatened.
In the meantime, on a slow news day like today, the story has dominated headlines in the city, across the country and around the world, as people struggle to understand what might have set Tatiana off.
One tiger expert, John Seidensticker, said that although tigers generally avoid contact with people, when they’re kept in zoos they grow accustomed to humans and lose their fear of them. But zoo keepers are also trained to take enormous care and precautions around them because of their unpredictable nature, said Mr. Seidensticker, who is the head of conservation ecology at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the chairman of the Save the Tiger Fund council. He apparently became the go-to tiger expert for the story, with a number of media outlets reaching out to him.
“I think of tigers as splendid, great predators,” he said. “But at the core, the tiger is a great cat, and they are dangerous.”
It appears that this was not Tatiana’s first attack on a human. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, last December, Tatiana chewed the flesh off a zoo keeper’s arm during a public feeding demonstration. But an investigation by the state eventually laid the blame for the attack on the zoo, saying the configuration of the cages was a crucial factor.