Woman recalls tiger encounter

December 27, 2007 7:25:12 PM PST
Even though Tatiana was born in captivity and never learned to hunt in the wild, no amount of training can suppress the basic animal instinct of a predator.

This is the first time anybody has heard of a tiger escaping on its own from a natural habitat environment at a zoo.

No other tiger has made such a long jump to freedom, which is why many experts are skeptical. But a local woman says she watched another tiger 'almost' clear that very same wall a few years ago.

"It's frightening it doesn't seem real," said Marian Roth Cramer.

Marian Roth Cramer is referring to her visit to the San Francisco Zoo December 31, 1996. She took her then 4 year old son Erik to the tigers in their enclosure.

"I was taking pictures and I saw the tiger leap over across his pen and cross the moat and climb up. I remember that very distinctly five or six feet away from my son, and then he slid down," said Roth Cramer.

The angle of the wall denied the tiger a good grip. When she screamed and backed away she encountered a zoo employee.

"I said o my god! Did you see that? Is he after my son or something to that effect? He said to me, he does that all the time he hates my guts. He's after me," said Roth Cramer.

Cramer says she wanted to relate that incident to the police and share her pictures. She called the SFPD but has yet to get a return call.

She grieves for the mother of the man who was killed. She never returned to the tiger area after that incident but if she did she would not notice any difference.

According to a zoo official, the enclosure has not been changed in 11 years.

The enclosure pictured here still has a 33 foot wide moat and a 12 foot 5 inch high wall measured from the bottom of the moat to where visitors like Cramer can view the animals.

Zoo officials said today they contacted tiger experts who suggested changing the enclosure and now say while the zoo is closed they will make some changes.

"Putting in new fencing in front of the feline exhibits including surveillance cameras and also adding hot wire around the perimeter around each one of the animals' habitats," said San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo.

Zoo director Manuel Mollinedo said while exactly how the cat escaped is unknown, he promised there won't be another escape.

"When we open the zoo, the zoo will be safe," said Mollinedo.

The zoo will remain closed on Friday.