crouching tiger, hidden agenda?

I don't know.

But yesterday I was very suspicious when I read that a tiger supposedly "jumped" an enclosure said by experts to be impossible for a tiger to jump.

The story is on the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and a story at the Inquirer website is now fueling speculation about human error:

Police Chief Heather Fong said the department has opened a criminal investigation to "determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out or if the tiger was able to get out on its own."

Police said they have not ruled anything out, including whether the escape was the result of carelessness or a deliberate act.

Fong said officers were gathering evidence from the tiger's enclosure as well as accounts from witnesses and others.

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.

Negligence by a zoo employee would obviously be the most likely cause of the tragedy. But if there was an intentional act, it comes down to a question of why.

A psychopathic prankster, possibly?

How about a demented activist who does not believe tigers should be kept in zoos?

Something about the timing of this statement seems a bit too, um, convenient:

San Francisco, Calif. -- In the wake of Siberian tiger Tatiana's escape and attack on visitors at the San Francisco Zoo--which left one person dead and two others seriously injured--PETA sent an urgent letter this morning to Manuel A. Mollinedo, executive director and president of the San Francisco Zoo, urging him to phase out the zoo's tiger exhibit.

Since 1990, there have been more than 220 dangerous incidents in 40 states involving big cats. Four children and 15 adults have lost their lives, and more than 50 others have lost limbs or suffered other injuries after being mauled. The animals involved are victims too--75 big cats, including Tatiana, have been killed because of these incidents.

Captive tigers are forced to spend their entire lives in barren enclosures, which, on average, are 18,000 times smaller than their natural roaming range, according to an Oxford University study. The study also shows that it is simply impossible for captive tigers to express instinctual behaviors, such as staking out territory in dense forests, choosing mates, running, climbing trees, and hunting. Oxford scientists concluded that big cats--who have extraordinarily complex physical and psychological needs--become neurotic when they are confined.

"In the past, the San Francisco Zoo made the honorable decision to close its elephant exhibit and send its elephants to a sanctuary," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "In light of this latest tragedy, it is time for the zoo to do the right thing once again and protect its animals and the public by phasing out its tiger exhibit."

Another animal activist claims that the blame lies with people who breed tigers:
Who knows what happened to this tiger? ... It isn't the tiger's fault. It is the fault of the people breeding these animals in the first place that leads them to be here.
By that logic, people breeding dogs are responsible for vicious dog attacks, and horse breeders are responsible for people thrown or trampled by horses.

Here's a report that one or more of the victims may have provoked the attack or enabled the animal to escape:

The three victims in the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco zoo may have provoked the tiger into attacking, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Officers found a shoe and a trail of blood inside the tiger's cage...

They found it in that area between the cage gate and the 20 foot moat.

That's leading them to believe one or more of the tiger's three victim's may have climbed over the wall and dangled their feet into the cage.

What police don't know just yet is whether it was an accident or they were intentionally trying to provoke the tiger.

Police and zoo officials holding a press conference this morning at 11:30...That may give us at least some clues.

I'd like to know more about these "victims." Who are they? And why aren't they being called alleged victims?

As I tried to make clear during the battle over the Philadelphia Zoo's elephants, it is well known that animal rights activists believe animals should not be in zoos.

While this is pure speculation, I don't think it is inconceivable that a group of people deliberately tried to free the tiger in the hope of accelerating the animal rights agenda, but the game plan backfired.

Hmmm...

Would that make them martyrs instead of victims?

Of course, it's entirely possible that the victims were not in any way involved with freeing the cat, and that the criminal culprit(s) are at large.

UPDATE: More on the deceased alleged victim here:


"I didn't want to believe it. It's hard to believe that your only son in such a big world is picked for death by a tiger," Carlos Sousa Sr. told the San Jose Mercury News.

"Unfortunately, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time," he added. "I miss him very much. He's all I have."

Experts on animals said that the tiger might have been taunted and possibly helped to get free. But cousin Christina Sousa-Habenicht, 27, said she couldn't imagine Carlos doing anything so dangerous.

"Carlos was not stupid," she said emphatically.

She described her tall and handsome cousin as a "normal teenager" who played football and basketball and had "a lot of good friends."

"He wanted to be a deejay," she said with a sad smile. "He took a couple of courses in school to learn how. He used to deejay out of the garage for family parties and he used to mix his father's '70s music with hip hop and rap."

No sign of AR activism, nor has any evidence been revealed placing him inside the tiger enclosure.

AND MORE: In repeated accounts like this one, there are references to a shoe and blood having been found by police inside the tiger enclosure. They could spare everyone a lot of speculation by simply disclosing what they probably already know.

Whose blood? Whose shoes?

(Sorry, but I get a little impatient when I'm made to wait for news I know is out there.)

If the zoo closes the tiger exhibit because of this, I think it's an unfortunate sign of the times.

As there are numerous updates to this post, click to continue below.

MORE: The LA Times has a pretty exhaustive report on this incident and the background.

AND MORE: In light of the continued focus on the victim, I'm forced to ask a question.

Assuming he jumped into the tiger's enclosure, why is this any more tragic than if he had ran onto the freeway?

Had he run onto the highway and been killed, would the parents' anger have been worldwide news?

AND MORE: Rumors are now being reported that the deceased may have been taunting the tiger:

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Police are reportedly investigating whether any of the victims in Tuesday's fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo taunted the animal before it went on a rampage.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that police found a shoe and blood in an area between a gate and a moat in the tiger enclosure, raising the possibility that 1 of the victims dangled a leg or another body part over the moat.

Meanwhile, the father of the 17-year-old boy who died in the attack says he doesn't think his son would taunt animals.

Carlos Sousa tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that he hopes it's not true. He adds that no one deserves to be the victim of such an attack, "taunting or not taunting."

Sousa says "animals should be protected from the people and the people should be protected from the animals."

Um, isn't that what the moat and the fence were for?

They put fences around freeways too. People can climb over fences, can't they?

Again, if a pedestrian did that and got run over, would anyone be heard to argue that pedestrians should be protected from cars and cars should be protected from pedestrians?

MORE: An article in the San Jose Mercury News takes a close look at the tiger enclosure, with pictures. There's a 20 foot moat (which was dry) then an 18 foot wall (higher than the recommended 16.5 feet which tigers cannot jump), and then a fence.

I'm even more puzzled by this, because even assuming the young men climbed the fence and dangled their feet over the edge of the wall, that might allow the tiger to leap up and bite a foot (and maybe pull a person in), but how on earth would the tiger be able to leap higher than it is capable of leaping? If the kids had used a rope or a board to climb down into the moat and taunt the tiger, it would still be there, because they fled to a cafe 300 yards away and only later did the tiger apparently track them down.

How it got out is a mystery which only the young men in the hospital can clear up.

Assuming that there was no board, I guess it's theoretically possible that if someone was dangling his legs over the wall, that the tiger took hold firmly, and instead of pulling him in, was able to successfully use his body for leverage in climbing out. But what would prevent him from being pulled in? Might he have been held by his companions? Or might he have held onto something (the fence or some trees), and by refusing to let go, allowed his body to be used as a bridge?

I admit it's a stretch, but I'm not seeing much in the way of other explanations.

UPDATE: Read the comments to the San Jose Mercury article. They'll probably be deleted, but I thought I'd quote these as a sample:


The tiger got tired of the terrible zoo food and wanted Central Amriacn food! Regretfully Sousa Jr. got attacked along the way. Poor guy, too bad he died so young. In any case, the family will now get BIG $$$$$ from this and will be able to get their green-card to stay here legally and buy a brand new cadillac escalade with 36 in rims!!! Posted by: Andres Salazar, East San Jose12/27/2007 7:47 AM
And:

sounds like some gang members had a zoo visit day - we'll find out soon enough
Posted by: salvador 12/27/2007 7:55 AM
And
Comments like those just make me sympathetic to the intelligence and honesty of big cats.

Posted by: 12/27/2007 8:08 AM

And:
Seems like some of the posters here need to go on a tiger taunting jaunt to their local zoo.
Posted by: 12/27/2007 8:09 AM
And:
The only way to prepare for the eventual law suit is to "deny and demand proof" the requisite number of times (as often and a publically as you can) before the investigation is complete. Once the "proof" or truth is released you refuse comment and file your suit.

Kids, Parents, Adults and otherwise great people do stupid dangerous things all the time that cause injury and even death to themselves or others. I'm afraid this 17 year old and his friends are no different from "other people."
Posted by: Mujaputia Umbarbaraba 12/27/2007 8:14 AM

And:
Kids of all ages taunt my dog, and that includes adult men who haven't grown up. I'm clear about it and explain that it's mean to the dog, and makes it harder for the next people who fit their description when my dog remembers their having teased him, but I've seen the same people do it the next time they pass under my window anyway. I can totally picture them teasing a tiger. I'm not saying these people teased that tiger, but it happens with my dog all the time, so why wouldn't it happen with a tiger? Posted by: julie 12/27/2007 8:15 AM
And:
"IF" it turns out that these kids were taunting that big cat, they got exactly what they deserved.
Posted by: GA-Alameda 12/27/2007 8:43 AM
And:
Although this is a tragedy, people who don't respect or understand the instincts of a predator don't belong in the gene pool. If we think about it, zoos are a symptom of a lack of balance in human nature. Because humans take this living planet for granted, we are all endangered species. Posted by: chris smith 12/27/2007 8:45 AM
Overall, there's not a whole lot of sympathy for the alleged victims.

If it turns out that they did taunt the tiger, why should they be entitled to legal damages? Yet most likely, they'll be compensated.

I think is the cult of zero responsibility that has so many people up in arms.

MORE: Regarding the two guys in the hospital.... They're older, and they fled from the scene.

Is it possible that they dangled the 17 year old in there? Why? Initiation, perhaps?

Anyway, they're both adults. Why are their names being withheld?

BOTTOM LINE: I am certain that there are already answers to many of the questions I am asking. It's just that the news is not being fully reported. (One of the limitations of blogging is that I can only find what's online.)

MORE: The dead boy's father thinks the two men in the hospital have the answer:

Regarding the speculation about enticing the big cat, he said, "I'm not saying my son could have been taunting. I don't know. Those two wounded boys, they should have the answer. I'm just waiting to find out myself."
I think the cops already have a pretty good idea what happened, but what we call "news" has to travel in stages -- first from sources like the police to MSM reporters, and only when they have reported it does it become news for bloggers like me who hover over Google as a vulture hovers over roadkill.

MORE: The story just keeps looking more and more fishy. Now investigators are saying they'll have to rely on "physical evidence."

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Investigators will have to rely on physical evidence as they try to determine how a tiger was able to escape its enclosure before its fatal attack on a 17-year-old at the San Francisco Zoo.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, police found a shoe and blood in an area between the gate and the edge of the animal's 20-foot-wide moat, raising the possibility that one of the victims dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of the moat.

Because the zoo has no surveillance cameras at the tiger exhibit, investigators have had to search for other evidence as they try to piece together how the tiger escaped.

Meanwhile, the zoo remains closed again today after Carlos Sousa Junior was killed by the 300-pound animal.

Two brothers who were mauled by the tiger are being treated at San Francisco General Hospital for deep bites and claw wounds.

Does this mean they can't ask the two brothers what happened? Why? Are the "victims" refusing to talk to police? Who are they? Has their lawyer advised them to remain silent?

Why isn't this being reported?

UPDATE: Is the idea of freeing dangerous animals now spreading?

A headline in the Chicago Sun Times asks "Vandals free Wisconsin zoo cougars -- were they inspired by San Francisco?"

MANITOWOC, Wis. -- Two cougars freed from the Lincoln Park Zoo by vandals were captured Thursday without injuring anyone, police said. Vandals cut some chain-link fencing overnight to free the two animals, Lt. Kevin Rocklewitz said.

Officers and the zoo's vet found one cougar still in the park, tranquilized it and returned it to the zoo. It was not immediately clear where the second cougar was found.

Mayor Kevin Crawford said he doesn't know whether the vandals were influenced by the Tuesday incident at the San Francisco Zoo in which a tiger escaped from its enclosure, killed one person and critically injured two others.

No idea whether the vandals were animal rights activists or "normal" barbarians.

MORE (03:00 p.m. EST) Still precious little on the brothers, who are described as doing well enough to be released in a few days:

Specifics regarding the brothers' injuries are not being released, but Dr. Eric Isaacs said that when they arrived they were in serious but stable condition.

"There was significant blood loss," he said, but the bleeding was controlled. They were alert and talking with paramedics at the time.

Isaacs described the situation as life threatening right after the attack, but paramedics were able to stabilize them at the zoo, he said.

The 4-year-old Siberian tiger, Tatiana, killed Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, of San Jose, at about 5 p.m. Tuesday before going after the brothers, who are 19 and 23 years old.

The tiger was fatally shot by police following the attack.

The zoo will remain closed today, according to a zoo spokeswoman. A reopen date for the zoo has not been announced as an investigation into how the tiger escaped continues.

The "victims" obviously know what happened.

So are they talking, or aren't they?

You'd almost think that someone does not want the facts known.

UPDATE (03:09 p.m.): Finally, a common sense headline -- "Survivors hold key to solving mystery of S.F. Zoo's tiger attack."

Not that they've reported anything new (zoo employees are under strict orders not to talk), but it shows that at least someone in the reporting business realizes that the survivors must know what happened.

UPDATE: The same zoo director who was earlier quoted as saying the wall was 18 feet high now says it was only 12 feet high!

The director of the zoo where a teenager was killed by an escaped Siberian tiger acknowledged Thursday that the wall around the animal's enclosure was 12 1/2 feet - well below the height recommended by the main accrediting agency for the nation's zoos.

According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the minimum recommended height for tiger exhibit walls is 16.4 feet.

San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo said safety inspectors had examined the wall and never raised red flags about its size.

"When the AZA came out and inspected our zoo three years ago, they never noted that as a deficiency," Mollinedo said. "Obviously now that something's happened, we're going to be revisiting the actual height."

On Wednesday, Mollinedo said that the wall was 18 feet high, and that the moat around the tiger's pen was 20 feet wide. On Thursday, Mollinedo said the moat was 33 feet wide.

Sheesh. Maybe the guy should have measured it.

Unbelievable.

UPDATE: The story keeps changing. Now they're saying the victim's shoe was not found inside the fence. The footprint-on-the-fence story seems to be changing too.

MORE: More here.

AND MORE: The way this story is coming out is such a damned mess it is frankly unbelievable. Now the zoo director is denying making his own previously quoted statements.On Wednesday, Mollinedo told The Chronicle it was likely that the animal was provoked, noting that "a couple of feet dangling over the edge could possibly have done it."

Today, Mollinedo denied making that statement.

An examination of the tiger's body also revealed a significant amount of concrete in its back paws, according to a source close to the investigation. That may indicate the tiger used its back claws to help push it up the grotto wall. Who is in charge of what we call news anyway?

I see no point in trying to analyze constantly changing stories.

MORE: The San Francisco Chronicle now identifies the survivors, but notes they have not been forthcoming:

And sources close to the investigation tell The Chronicle that the surviving brothers have not been entirely forthcoming during interviews with police.

Mollinedo said the grotto, built in 1940, was inspected several years ago by officials from the American Zoological Association and "they raised no concerns about the wall." The zoo is asking the association to bring in experts to assess the habitat and the remaining large cats, which are currently being kept in cages. Mollinedo said the zoo is looking at installing surveillance cameras, more powerful lights, electrical hot wires around enclosure and restructuring the walls.

Zoo officials and police authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the victims may have dangled a limb over the animal's enclosure, helping the big cat escape.

An examination of the tiger's body also revealed a significant amount of concrete in its back paws, according to a source close to the investigation. That may indicate the tiger used its back claws to help push it up the grotto wall.

Reached at their San Jose home Thursday, relatives of the two injured boys declined to talk to the media.

"We have no comment at this time," said the boys' 25-year-old brother, Sunny Dhaliwal.

Family members said they wanted to speak to the two men and hospital staff before talking publicly about the incident.

Carlos Sousa Sr. said Thursday that his son and Paul Dhaliwal were good friends. They shared a love of music, especially hip hop, and wanted to write music professionally. He said he didn't know Wednesday that his son had visited the zoo with the brothers.

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 released)," he said.

On Wednesday, sources had said that authorities found a shoe and blood on the grass inside the tiger enclosure; today, Police Chief Heather Fong said there was no shoe found in the grotto. A shoe was discovered near where the third victim was attacked, she said, and a shoeprint was also found on the railing of the waist-high fence surrounding the grotto.

"We have all three pairs of shoes from the victims, and now we will see if any of them matches the footprint (on the fence)," she said.

Police have consistently downplayed the idea that the victims may have taunted the tiger, even though Mollinedo told The Chronicle on Wednesday that it was likely that the animal was provoked, noting that "a couple of feet dangling over the edge could possibly have done it."

Mollinedo now denies saying that.

UPDATE (12/28/07): It now turns out that the two uncooperative survivors not only lied to the Sousa boy's father, but have a police history:

When Carlos Sousa Jr. didn't show up for Christmas dinner, his father called several of his son's friends - including the two brothers injured in the tiger attack that killed the teen.

Either Amritpal "Paul" Dhaliwal, 19, or his 23-year-old brother Kulbir Dhaliwal answered the phone and told Sousa Sr. that his son wasn't with them. In reality, the three young men were either on their way to or had already arrived at the San Francisco Zoo, where they would later be mauled by a 350-pound Siberian tiger.

"I said, 'Have you seen my son?' and he said, 'No,' then he wished me a merry Christmas," the father said.

The Dhaliwal brothers remained in stable condition Thursday, recovering from their injuries at San Francisco General Hospital. Their relatives, reached Thursday at their home on a quiet San Jose cul-de-sac, declined to speak to reporters.

"We have no comment at this time," said the boys' 25-year-old brother Sunny Dhaliwal, adding that his family wanted to speak to the boys and hospital staff before talking publicly about the incident.

A man accompanying family members outside the house later told a reporter that the family would have nothing to say until after consulting with a lawyer.

The Dhaliwal brothers have been hostile to police in the current death investigation and were "extremely belligerent" in an earlier encounter with police this year, authorities say.

After the zoo attack, authorities said, the brothers had refused to give their own names, identify the victim or initially give authorities an account of what occurred.

Thursday, police interviewed the two brothers, as well as Sousa's father. Authorities didn't release the details of the interviews but did say their investigation showed that the tiger first attacked the older brother.

Here's an account of what happened in the earlier incident:
Both Kulbir and Paul Dhaliwal were charged Oct. 9 with misdemeanor public intoxication and resisting a police officer after they were arrested a short distance from their home while apparently chasing two men, according to court documents.

Kulbir Dhaliwal allegedly cursed officers and kicked the security partition between the back and front seats in a police car after being handcuffed in the Sept. 7 incident, the police report said.

The brothers pleaded not guilty to the charges and are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 15, records show.

"The reports indicate they were extremely belligerent with police," said Steuart Scott, the deputy district attorney assigned the case.

Ralph Benitez, a public defender who represents Kulbir Dhaliwal, did not return calls seeking comment.

OK, the wall appears to have been too low.

But something motivated that tiger to not only make a very difficult climb or leap out of there, but pursue the Dhaliwals to the cafe 300 yards away.

MORE: According to this report, survivor Paul Dhaliwal was previously sentenced by a court to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

posted by Eric on 12.27.07 at 08:02 AM










Comments

You know me. I'm not a real tiger, but if you wave a pro AGW post in my face it's like dangling red meat or legs in my pen.
The telling point where the mystery started to unnnravel for me was when the names of the brothers were mentioned.
Hindus worship tigers. Drunk Hindu teenagers with very little prodding (perhaps Junglebook was on the Disney channel the night before) could convince each other that it is a good idea to sneak into the tiger cage after closing time. Not just a good idea, a right of passage.

This would explain the mute survivors.

Don't get me wrong, the Zoo is liable and they shall pay big time (if ther is any justice). The kids might have done something stupid, but what the zoo did, shortcutting the tiger fence and moat, that is a criminal negligence. I hope the parents sue the elephant crap out of those zoo keepers.

Papertiger   ·  December 30, 2007 6:59 AM

FWIW, a cougar can jump 18 feet high, so it seems reasonable to believe that a tiger could do something similar.

(I happen to know about this because in 1998 a cougar was killing animals inside a large game farm in this area, Northwest Trek. The animal was going over an 8 foot fence to get at its prey. Electrifying the fence didn't stop it.)

Jim Millerk   ·  December 30, 2007 8:37 AM

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