S.F. Zoo re-opens amid investigation

January 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The San Francisco Zoo re-opened on Thursday for the first time since a tiger escaped Christmas Day and killed a visitor.

Some people are remembering both victims in that tragedy -- the teenager and the tiger.

There is a candlelight vigil to remember both victims organized by groups dedicated to protecting the animals. On Thursday morning, the gates to the entrance opened shortly after 10:00 a.m. and there were not a lot of visitors probably because of the bad weather.

Thos who did come were families with kids.

Visitors were already waiting outside the entrance when the zoo opened this morning.

One of the first to arrive, 15-month-old Cameron Doyle dressed as a tiger and his mom Arlene.

At this statue just inside the gate, patrons were able to leave flowers and mementos to both Tatiana the tiger and Carlos Sousa, the 17-year-old who was killed.

"I'm very sad because it's unnecessary death for a wonderful beautiful animal," said zoo volunteer Marian Gan.

Marian Gan made a sash which she wrapped around the statue's neck. She had been a zoo volunteer the year Tatiana arrived.

"The seven year years I've been working, they never hurt anybody. You just let them alone and let them do what they do, they'd be fine," said Gan.

Two-year-old Arieel Lazo walked up to the statue, turned to her mother and asked why. Her mother said she didn't understand why she couldn't see the real tiger.

"We miss Tatiana now because always when we come here we go to see her. We a very sad, but happy zoo is open again," said zoo visitor Mirna Lazo.

There was still plenty to see here -- lots of animals playing and sleeping. All pleasing to the families visiting the zoo.

But many were disappointed that the big cat exhibits were closed. A fence manned by a security guard blocked its path.

Among those admitted inside were the Park and Recreations Director and State Senator Leland Yee.

"Yeah, definitely disappointed I mean that was one of the things we wanted to see the big cats," said zoo visitor Ruben Escobedo.

Workers today began building a glass barrier atop the walls of the cat exhibits, including the one around the tiger grotto's dry moat from where Tatiana escaped.

The zoo says the glass barrier will extend the height of the wall to 19 feet, six and a half feet higher than suggested by national standards.

Early this morning, the zoo also tested a new notification alarm system atop the lion house which will alert visitors if animals escape.