SF tiger attack: Is city to blame?

January 28, 2008 10:07:47 PM PST
Members of the San Francisco Supervisors are questioning whether the city ought to be involved in the running of the San Francisco Zoo. A committee held a hearing on its safety measures on Monday, in the wake of that fatal tiger attack on Christmas Day.

"I believe something unusual and extraordinary happened to cause a Siberian tiger to get out of its habitat," says Manuel Mollinedo, San Francisco Zoo Director.

Mollinedo told the supervisors committee that some new safety measures were already installed. They include signs with a phone number to report unruly behavior.

"Just last week this new system was put to the test when we had an individual observe some young people acting in a disruptive way around the gorillas," says Mollinedo.

General manager of the Recreation and Parks Department Yomi Agunbiade said construction of higher walls around the big cat and bear exhibits would be completed soon.

"What we're trying to do is to add a concrete wall to the top of the existing moat wall," says Agunbiade.

The zoo is run jointly by the San Francisco Zoological Society and the city, but some supervisors questioned the relationship. Supervisor Chris Daly believes the city ought to rethink the relationship.

"I don't think the well being of the animals is being put first by the Zoological Society and I don't think the safety of folks going to the zoo is a high priority -- at least it wasn't Christmas Day," says Daly.

A three-member team from the Association of Zoo and Aquariums, which accredits animal parks, began its investigation over the weekend and are expected to wrap up Tuesday. They are not talking about their investigation.

"They're looking specifically and working with a number of people at the zoo, reviewing our safety standards, and certainly looking at our cat exhibits and talking to various people," says Lora Lamarca, San Francisco Zoological Society.

Zoo officials told the supervisors the work to fortify the big cat and bear grottos will cost about $1 million dollars. They hope to finish construction by February 7th.