Feds release SF Zoo tiger attack documents

February 12, 2011 6:01:20 PM PST
An investigator for the federal agency which looked into the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo four years ago says the tiger was probably provoked into clawing out of its enclosures. Tatiana, a female Siberian Tiger, killed one man and hunted down and clawed two others Christmas Day 2007 at the zoo.

"In order for Tatiana to have been agitated enough to jump out of her enclosure, she had to have been really taunted by the individuals," said former tiger trainer Chris Austria.

Austria agrees with a tiger expert, who wrote in a draft to the report that the animal must have been provoked to jump from her enclosure.

Austria is a veteran tiger trainer who has worked at Marine World and the San Francisco Zoo. Austria read the report and has viewed pictures used by the investigators. They show Tatiana's claw scratches a foot below the top of the moat's wall, more scratches on the top and blood smear on the sidewalk outside the tiger grotto where Tatiana killed Carlos Sousa.

"To actually jump 12 and a half feet, grab onto the top of the moat with her claws and pull herself up, it's an outstanding feat that's very, very unusual," said Austria.

The Siberian tiger killed Sousa and injured his friends, brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal.

The tiger leaped out of the grotto which was surrounded by a moat and that 12 and a half foot wall, which was lower than federal safety recommendations. The report says that after Tatiana sat with the body of Sousa, the tiger likely followed the Dhaliwals' blood trail for about 300 yards outside a zoo cafe where she resumed her attack on one of the brothers. Police finally shot and killed Tatiana.

Sam Singer, who was the zoo's spokesman in the aftermath of the tiger attack, said the report vindicates his client.

"This really never would have happened if the Dhaliwal brothers and their young friend hadn't enraged Tatiana the tiger," said Singer.

But Michael Cardoza, an attorney for the Sousa family says no matter what, the zoo is still at fault.

"It should have been their priority and their obligation to keep that tiger in that enclosure no matter what people did to it," said Cardoza.

The zoo built a new and taller enclosure at the tiger grotto after the attack.

Sousa's parents settled their wrongful death suit. The Dhaliwal brothers also settled their suit, but never admitted provoking Tatiana; although Sousa's father says one of them admitted being drunk, yelling and waving their arms at the tiger.


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