Siberian Tiger Escapes SF Zoo, Does What Tigers Do

Tatiana.jpg Ever since a rare Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo (my first zoo!) and mauled two brothers after killing a third man, news sites have listed the story in their various “top ten” boxes, for most emailed, most popular and most blogged. Who knew there was a Sepia angle to this captivating, contradiction-filled tale? An anonymous tipster did, and they just rang up the mutiny; it turns out the two survivors are desi.

First, the deets:

The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo was cordoned off as a crime scene Wednesday as investigators tried to determine whether a 300-pound Siberian tiger that killed a visitor escaped from its high-walled pen on its own or got help from someone, inadvertent or otherwise.
Police shot the animal to death after a Christmas Day rampage that began when the tiger escaped from an enclosure surrounded by what zoo officials said are an 18-foot wall and a 20-foot moat. Two other visitors were severely mauled…
One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on TV, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat, and “virtually impossible.”
“There’s something going on here. It just doesn’t feel right to me,” he said. “It just doesn’t add up to me.”
Instead, he speculated that visitors might have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, say, putting a board in the moat. [KTVU]

Tatiana is the same tiger who attacked a zookeeper almost exactly a year ago, during a public feeding. In that situation, the Zoo was found to be at fault, not the tiger, which is why she wasn’t put down. As many have pointed out on message boards and in news articles, “she was just acting like a tiger”. In this latest, deadly attack, some have asked why an animal which is extremely endangered wasn’t tranquilized instead of killed. The zoo had a team which was capable of that, but the police responded first and did what they felt they had to:

The body of Carlos Sousa Jr, 17, was found with a slashed throat near the exhibit.
The other two victims, brothers age 19 and 23, who accompanied Mr Sousa to the zoo, were said to be present when the tiger escaped.
It is thought they fled, leaving a trail of blood which the tiger followed…
The four-year-old cat, Tatiana, attacked one of the brothers before police were able to distract the animal and shoot it dead. [Telegraph]

There has been much conjecture about whether a board was lowered to help the tiger (!), whether they dangled body parts over the enclosure to tease it, and whether blood and a shoe were found inside the tiger’s stomping grounds. Finally, there are a few answers:

New information about the SF Zoo tiger attack has been released by police chief Heather Fong. Based on information gathered from the two survivors, brothers Paul Dhaliwal and Kulbir Dhaliwal, Carlos Sousa Jr. actually saved one of them from being killed. Apparently, when Tatiana originally went after one of the brothers, Sousa courageously tried to draw her attention away from his friend, which worked (obvi).
Fong also clarified that there was indeed no shoe found inside the waist-high fence that is intended to keep visitors and tigers from interacting. However, a shoe print that was found on the fence may provide more information on whether or not Tatiana was taunted by the threesome. [SFist]

Predictably, they are in the process of comparing the print with the victims’ shoes. Ek other problem/development:

The wall of a moat that surrounds the San Francisco Zoo’s tiger enclosure is far shorter than officials thought and also below national standards, authorities said today. [SFGate]

Well, that potentially answers how a tiger miraculously jumped out, doesn’t it? In case you missed it the first time, actual desi names of the victims, next:

Zoo officials have gone back and forth on the grotto’s measurements since a 350-pound tiger escaped on Christmas Day, killing 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and seriously injuring two of his friends. The survivors were identified by relatives and public records as brothers Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23. The three young men were from San Jose.
Earlier this week, zoo officials said the moat’s wall was at least 20 feet tall. Today, they said it was little over 12 feet. Since the investigation began Tuesday, officials have given at least five different measurements for the enclosure, which is surrounded by a moat, two walls on either side of the moat, a small patch of grass and then another waist-high fence. Experts say that the depth of the moat and height of the walls could have a large impact on the animal’s ability to escape the enclosure. [SFGate]

Golly, you think? It turns out that the wall is four feet lower than what experts recommend for such enclosures.

The confusion over the grotto’s size is only the latest headache for investigators looking into the attack, which happened shortly after the zoo’s 5 p.m. closing time. The zoo has no video cameras that watch over the animals, making it difficult to piece together how Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, escaped. And sources close to the investigation tell The Chronicle that the surviving brothers have not been entirely forthcoming during interviews with police. [SFGate]

If I had just been mauled by a tiger which killed one of my closest friends, I might be a bit quiet, too. I’m just saying. The Dhaliwal boys are lucky:

Doctors at San Francisco General Hospital said the brothers are recovering but will have to remain hospitalized for several more days. Chief of Surgery Dr. William Schecter said he was optimistic they would make a full recovery, although there still is a risk of infection.
“They should be able to walk out of here (when they are releasd),” he said. [SFGate]

Developing…

174 thoughts on “Siberian Tiger Escapes SF Zoo, Does What Tigers Do

  1. 144 · nala said

    Wow, I would love to see you all (Rahul, portmanteau, pingpong, Camille, Amitabh, et al.) awkwardly meet in real life.

    I suppose I’d like to watch too.

  2. apparently sling-shots were found on the Dhaliwals, as well as a bottle of vodka in their car. they’re not speaking, even to the father of their slain friend, who’s asked them for an explanation. got this from anderson cooper

  3. Manju- what are you doing watching CNN (and anderson cooper, at that!)? shouldn’t you be tuning in to the heavily made up bottle blondes on fox news?

    also, that sucks, that’s more evidence that they were provoking the tiger. i wonder how these boys will live with themselves. could anything legal action be taken here that would make them resonsible for the death of their friend?

  4. Slingshots!!? swearword swearword! They got off too easy for disrespecting the poor animal.

    also, that sucks, that’s more evidence that they were provoking the tiger. i wonder how these boys will live with themselves. could anything legal action be taken here that would make them resonsible for the death of their friend?

    Not to mention the poor tigress.

    Yes, I really hope there’s something on the books to hold them resp for their friend’s death. Involuntary manslaughter or something that’s used in drunken driving car crash cases where others die.

  5. Manju- what are you doing watching CNN (and anderson cooper, at that!)? shouldn’t you be tuning in to the heavily made up bottle blondes on fox news? also, that sucks, that’s more evidence that they were provoking the tiger. i wonder how these boys will live with themselves. could anything legal action be taken here that would make them resonsible for the death of their friend?

    Can’t you imagine a world where Anderson and the bottle blondes get together?

    Anderson, “There’s this tragedy in xxxxville, I must get to the bottom of it!”

    BBs, “Awesome! Hey AC, you know you’re going to hell because of all teh gay shit, right? Let’s go hit Jimmy Choo’s later. Byeeee!”

  6. So these jerks deliberately and premeditatedly went to the zoo armed with slingshots? All boozed up? Wah, kya Christmas hai! I’ll stop short of saying they got what they deserved, but it’s still interesting to consider their shock when the supposedly helpless tiger they were aiming rocks at jumped out and started attacking them. Very sad story all around.

  7. The Anderson Cooper page on CNN.com contains a video of the report mentioned above. It appears the NY post broke the story about the alleged bottle and slingshots found on the Dhaliwals citing unnamed sources. There’s also mention in the same report that the authorities do not have any evidence ,as of yet, to support any provocation of the animal.

    Based on the news reports, I still hold the belief that the young man who died, died trying to save his friends. I am reluctant to say that this man deserved to die due to either his or his friends’ actions. If the Dhaliwals used slingshots and hurt the animal in any way, that is obviously reprehensible. To say that this justifies the death of one young man and the mauling of two others seems a tad bit extreme. No?

    I don’t know the criminal ramifications of the Dhaliwal’s alleged acts, but if they were somehow involved in causing the attack, any civil recovery they may wish to pursue against the zoo would have to take into account their own portion of responsibility, thus reducing any potential award they wish to seek. The Sousa family could also pursue a suit against the zoo and the Dhaliwals. My opinion, is that the zoo probably doesn’t get let off the hook even if the Dhaliwals may have precipitated the event. What if this had been a 14 year old with a sling shot? You still blame the kid? Does that answer change if it’s a 9 yr old? A zoo has to take into account that its housing wild animals and take reasonable precautions. Here the zoo by all accounts did not. Further, a zoo is aware that it attracts a certain clientele: children, families and young adults. The zoo has to take this into account when its deciding what is foreseeable in terms of its precautions. One question for a reasonable person on a jury is it foreseeable that young men in their late teens would provoke a wild animal to anger to cause it to escape it’s pen? What precautions should a zoo take from allowing a lion to escape and to prevent its patrons, some who are very young, from provoking the animals?

    Does that change your opinion on whether the Dhaliwals are solely responsible for what happened to them (if you believe they caused it) or can you apportion fault to the zoo as well? Once again, if they used slingshots and harmed the animal, it was completely stupid and offensive. But let’s go easy on passing judgment, especially since someone, who doesn’t seem to have done anything other than save his friend’s life, is dead.

  8. Has Tom Tancredo seized this opportunity yet to warn Americans of the dangers of low fences and Mexicans?

  9. Rahul,

    Happy New Year! That last post was so wrong and yet so, so funny. Hope to see much more of that in the New Year, you casteist, ganesh-immersing, swinging both ways, Tiger of Tamburampurum. Did I forget anything…..(tossing you a softball(s) – the brown kind – not a rasgullah).

  10. Now I am starting to believe the two brothers might have teased the tigers since there was a witness who saw them roar at the lions. They just might have done the same to the tiger exhibit.

    Anyone in their right mind should be against taunting innocent animals for fun. I also hate bullfighting & traditional rodeos because it seems like the bull/horses get teased to a boiling point. Not only are many of the animals teased in rodeos and bullfights, they often get physically harmed for some stupid human’s pleasure.

  11. Indian guys are very quickly earning such a negative reputation. Getting drunk and pelting a tiger with a slingshot… is that what passes for a good time?

    Are they carrying over old attitudes from India?

    Where does this boorishness come from? People who torture animals, rarely stop there. I just hope this makes it clear to Indian guys where their pathetic behavior stands in the food chain.

    I’m used to Indian guys being pricks in all sorts of ways, so I look at all of this from the perspective of the tiger:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsD4h9IBGZs&feature=related

    Why doesn’t someone come forward and make an argument for the ‘values’ that make Indians the great people that we are in this country?

    This is just disgusting. I once saw satellite tv footage of a leopard being stoned to death on the outskirts of a city and a bear being dowsed with petrol and being set ablaze (while alive). I was horrified by what those people were doing (and that someone could stand and record with a camera and not intervene). It’s hard for me not to draw a straight line from that kind of attitude/behavior in the ‘old country’ to the tragic incident that happened at the SF Zoo.

    Apparently the Mexican kid was just tagging along and had looked pretty sheepish to people when his friends started in on the tiger.

    Choose your friends wisely.

  12. Hey – what kind of a 17 year old and 22 year old desi (and male!)would go to the zoo!!!! – unless they’re under strict orders from “Mummy, Daddy, Aunty or Uncal” to escort their equally bratty of a nephew or niece or younger sibling – or to collect data for the annual science project. Sounds fishy to say the least. Is the SF Zoo a babe hang out place? I’d guess not.

  13. I agree that there are way too many instances of animal abuse by Indian males. Anyone who abuses animals will most likely be cruel to their fellow human beings. (Just look at the history of Dahmer and other mass murderers. I think this was also discussed in previous posts on Sepia Mutiny).

    For the record, my south Indian father and my south Indian husband and his brother are strict vegetarians and support most of PETA’s goals. My father is actually more vegan since he avoids milk, ghee,butter and eggs. I have personally seen their monetary contributions (occasionally) to animal welfare organizations (like the SPCA, PETA etc). They are very enlightened people who detest any animal abuse and totally respect other animal life. On my mom’s side, her brothers and my maternal grandparents have taken in stray dogs (in India) as respected family pets and gave them food and shelter. Maybe they are in the minority among Desi (males.) I really don’t have any statistics on Male Desi animal cruelty so I am speaking purely from my observations.

    But what about rodeos (US), bullfighting (Spain), circuses, hunting, fishing (putting a sharp steel hook into an innocent fish for amusement and food), dog fighting, chicken fighting(on other chickens – usually in Louisiana and sometimes in the Phillipines), etc. Personally, and I don’t mean to hurt anyone by stating this, I think meat eating and raising animals to be killed for eating and fur, & cosmetics testing, are especially cruel. Again, not to hurt anyones feelings, but the halal way of killing animals for meat sounds very brutal. Correct me if I am wrong about this.

    I have mixed feelings about pharmaceutical testing with animals because it can benefit other animals but it is still brutal to the caged animals getting pumped up with drugs. Computer models only tell you so much from what I understand. Maybe testing technology will improve to the point where it is unneccessary to test human and animal drugs on lab animals. But I think research for treating cancer, AIDS, and other horrible illnesses need the current methods of lab animal testing as long as the animals are treated as humanely as possible.

    Regarding meat eating, there are so many good vegetarian alternatives as everyone knows. I would probably excuse meat eating for someone who is wasting away due to cancer, aids, debilitating & severe food allergies, or someone who is trapped/lost in a forest away from civiliation, etc. Again, it’s just my opinion but a situation would have to be very severe to justify eating meat. I don’t like to be judgmental, but “Meat is murder” just like the title of one of my favorite songs and albums. (So many of my friends eat meat and they are wonderful and kind people. There are vegetarians who can be real a@@holes too.) But one excellent way to contribute to animal welfare is to be a vegetarian.

    Aside from the pros and cons of hunting, meat eating, etc it is plain common sense to not taunt animals. It’s hard to believe adults need to be taught that.

  14. Again, it’s just my opinion but a situation would have to be very severe to justify eating meat.

    Actually, it tastes pretty good (depending how it’s cooked).

  15. Another point I forgot to make in my last post was that is not just Indian dudes who are cruel to animals. In fact, not all of them are cruel to animals. There are asses (not the donkey kind) in all parts of the world who are brutal to innocent animals.

    Actually, the vedic concept of Ahimsa (translates to non violence in thought,word and deed to all living beings) is from Hinduism and Buddhism which originated from India. Whether people practice it or not is another issue. But in my household and my family, Ahimsa IS Hinduism and vegetarianism. (My only exception to that rule is spiders. Feel free to stomp on any spider that is indoors. Give it a head start on it’s next life because trying to catch it and take it outdoors is a royal pain.)

  16. 167 · gm said

    In fact, not all of them are cruel to animals.

    What? Not all Indian guys are cruel to animals? Just some? This argument is getting too nuanced for me.

  17. 166 · Amitabh said

    Again, it’s just my opinion but a situation would have to be very severe to justify eating meat.
    Actually, it tastes pretty good (depending how it’s cooked).

    Chicken Malai or Tandoori or something else?

  18. Why stop at chicken (in response to 166)? How does the English dish spotted dick sound (cow fat with raisins) or blood sausage?

    What about vegetarian stew? You may have heard about it – the recipe calls for tomatoes, two vegetarians, salt and pepper to taste, and so forth.

  19. But what about rodeos (US), bullfighting (Spain), circuses, hunting, fishing (putting a sharp steel hook into an innocent fish for amusement and food), dog fighting, chicken fighting(on other chickens – usually in Louisiana and sometimes in the Phillipines), etc. Personally, and I don’t mean to hurt anyone by stating this, I think meat eating and raising animals to be killed for eating and fur, & cosmetics testing, are especially cruel. Again, not to hurt anyones feelings, but the halal way of killing animals for meat sounds very brutal. Correct me if I am wrong about this.

    Great post, gm. I agree with this and the rest of it too. You have to be a pretty sorry human being to think not caring about animals or abusing them is funny.

  20. 150 · Santosh said

    87 · non-sequitur said
    Yup. Come January 7th some buck(eyes) are hoping to gang up to smother the tiger offensive…
    They can hope all they want but the buck(eyes) are way too slow compared to the tigers. Jan 7th will be a repeat of the Christmas day mauling.

    I’d like to rehash this clairvoyant post of mine :-)