Then, one day, James's mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo.
"Authorities [have] released the identity of the person killed in Tuesday's tiger mauling at the San Francisco Zoo.
Officials said the victim was a 17-year-old from San Jose named Carlos Sousa, Jr."*
“….The incident is, by any estimate, incredibly rare. ‘To have an animal escape and kill a visitor is unprecedented,’ says Ed Hansen, executive director of the American Association of Zookeepers and a 25-year veteran of the industry. But for zookeepers it is not particularly surprising: tigers have naturally aggressive and predatory instincts. So when a flaw in design or human error allows one to escape—two factors likely at play in San Francisco—a death is not altogether shocking. It's the rare but very real consequence of allowing humans to come in close contact with predatory animals.
‘The fact is you're keeping a wild animal in the cage that eats things the size of humans, sometimes things larger than humans,’ says Scott Lope, operations director of Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary in Florida. ‘That's what they do.’
While there is no government agency that tracks tiger attacks, Big Cat Rescue recorded 44 attacks by big cats in 2006, one of which resulted in a fatality. The statistic points to a fact that zookeepers say visitors often overlook: large cats, like tigers and lions, are predators even if they have spent their entire lives in a zoo.
…But if zookeepers aren't wondering why the animal attacked, they are still unsure of how. The tiger was separated from the public by a 20-foot-wide moat and a 18-foot-high wall. And the facility had recently been upgraded; after the 2006 attack the zoo installed customized steel mesh over the bars, built in a feeding chute and increased the distance between the public and the cats. The renovated facility opened in September. Experts have their best guesses: that it was likely a combination of both human and mechanical error that allowed the tiger to break loose. The recent renovation could have played a role. The design itself may have had flaws, or the changed environment could have upset the animals, which had moved in only three months ago, putting them on edge in an unfamiliar environment.
Then there's the possibility of a human error. Multiple experts told NEWSWEEK that the timing of the attack—around 5 p.m., closing time, on Christmas Day—may have had something to do with the animal's escape. ‘You could speculate it was Christmas Day … it was right before closing time and ask, 'Did [zoo personnel] leave early?'‘ says Lope of Big Cat Rescue. ‘There are many things you could speculate on that could all be contributing factors.’
But experts are quick to caution that the actual causes will not be clear until the police finish their investigation. The zoo (which is usually open 365 days a year) is expected to reopen Thursday, but its executive director, Manuel Mollinedo, said the big cat exhibits will remain closed ‘until we get a better understanding of what actually happened.’ It's an understanding that both the police and zookeepers anxiously await.”
"The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo was cordoned off as a crime scene Wednesday as investigators tried to determine whether a 300-pound Siberian tiger that killed a visitor escaped from its high-walled pen on its own or got help from someone, inadvertent or otherwise.
...Police Chief Heather Fong said the department has opened a criminal investigation to 'determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out or if the tiger was able to get out on its own.'
...One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on TV, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat, and 'virtually impossible.'
'There's something going on here. It just doesn't feel right to me,' he said. 'It just doesn't add up to me.'
Instead, he speculated that visitors might have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, say, putting a board in the moat.
Similarly, Ron Magill, a spokesman at the Miami Metro Zoo, said it is unlikely a zoo tiger could make such a leap, even with a running start.
'Captive tigers aren't nearly in the kind of shape that wild tigers have to be in to survive,' he said. He said taunting can definitely make an animal more aggressive, but 'whether it makes it more likely to get out of an exhibit is purely speculative.'
The police chief would not comment on whether the animal was taunted."
To achieve physical asylum for these animals, there appear to be only two approaches. One is to create protected areas large enough to sustain stable breeding populations and outlaw poaching, and to experiment with ways of limiting damage to human beings exposed to danger in and around such zones. The second approach is to do the same thing, but combined with an officially regulated offtake of the great beasts, through licensed hunting or harvesting for skins or other valuable body parts. Whether either approach can save these creatures is the ultimate subject of Quammen's investigations....
...''It's a general truth,'' Quammen writes, ''if not quite a universal one, relevant from Rudraprayag to Komodo to Tsavo, sometimes noted but seldom quantified or analyzed: predation is costly and the costs are unevenly distributed. Large predators cause more material loss, inconvenience, terror, suffering and death among poor people (specifically poor people who live in rural circumstances within or adjacent to the habitat) and among native people adhering to traditional lifestyles on the landscape . . . than to anyone else. Proximity plus vulnerability equals jeopardy.''
Popular assumptions about ecosystem stability and the delicate balance of nature are found lacking when examined in terms of paleoecological, historical and current biochronological, and biogeographical sequences in a wide variety of environments. Species composition of vegetation varies continuously in time as well as space in the absence of acute perturbations. Species have been added to or removed from ecosystems without greatly affecting ecosystem function... the relative importance of native and exotic species in ecosystems has and can be changed markedly and quickly by biological agents, but ecosystems appear to adjust rapidly in restoring productive capacity and functional processes without disastrous consequences... Some question man’s right and capacity to manipulate the “natural environment” and advocate a “hands-off approach. But the paleoecological and biogeographical sequences reviewed above suggest that there are few, if any, truly stable and “natural” plant assemblages.
« Older Tiny Buildings... | First, tribes: tough life.... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt