Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my parents taking me to frequent adventures to the San Francisco Zoo.
A lot has changed since those days of a bright eyed little boy with a Zoo Key in one hand and pink popcorn in the other. Exhibits have come and gone, and so have some of the animals. Elephants are a thing of the past at the San Francisco Zoo, thanks to animal rights fanatics.
And the tigers might be next after the horrifying maulings that took place on Christmas that left a teenager dead and his friends seriously wounded.
As a father who grew up going to the zoo and who now takes his own children several times a year with a yearly pass, the image of a tiger on the loose is as terrifying as they come. It was sad enough when a trainer was mauled in front of patrons (by the same tiger that was shot and killed in this latest incident) at the daily feeding in the Lion House. That kind of a scene could surely result in years of therapy, especially for the youngest of the witnesses. But a tiger on the LOOSE?? It's what horror movies are made of.
But how did this happen? The blame has gone from fingers pointed at the zoo, to the victims, and now back to the zoo again. The tiger was taunted. The fence was too low. The tiger acted in self defense. The zoo was negligent.
Now we are told that the sole fatality was trying to save his friends when he himself was mauled to death. The other two young men took off to a nearby cafe, only to be chased down by the big cat. Thanks to the efforts of the San Francisco Police Department, the two were saved before the tiger had a chance to kill them, too. It was a close call, indeed.
But I have some nagging questions. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the walls surrounding the tiger exhibit were four feet shorter than what is required.
So how come such a horrible tragedy hadn't struck the zoo in the wall's almost 70 year existence?? Why now would a tiger all of a sudden be able to leap that far and escape? It makes NO logical sense.
And why all of a sudden does it seem that authorities are downplaying reports of a shoe and blood being found IN the base of the moat within the habitat? Alongside pine cones and rocks that COULD NOT have gotten there naturally? Those are indications that the tiger was harassed. But we aren't hearing about that anymore. Maybe because it becomes less of a "sexy" news story if it's less of an "animals gone crazy" and more of "what do you expect when you tick a tiger off" story. Maybe some questions will never be answered.
I will still take my children to the San Francisco Zoo despite this bloody rampage. I will do it in the same way that I drive my children to school despite the fact that countless people die on roadways every single day.
But mark my words...despite their silence so far, PETA and other animal rights groups will use this as an excuse to pressure zoos into closing such exhibits. It would be a shame if this happened because captive animals generally live longer and healthier lives than they would in the wild.
And it's one of the few places a family can go to see some of nature's most awesome creatures.
Here's a conspiracy theory no one has posed yet and another thing to place the blame on--maybe it has never happened before because today's tigers are on steroids like many professional athletes.
Was Tatiana the 350 pound Siberian tiger named in the Mitchell report? Hey, it's not any crazier than all of the other theories and questions.