Tiger Still Slashing San Francisco Zoo

Zoo blames financial problems on tiger attack two years ago

By Derek Highsmith
|  Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009  |  Updated 12:34 PM EDT
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Tiger Still Slashing San Francisco Zoo

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Two Siberian tigers lay on the grass in their enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo. Tiger attacks are being blamed for the zoo's lagging attendance and budget shortfalls.

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Expensive safety upgrades, along with falling attendance and a decline in donations, have left the San Francisco Zoo in a financial crisis. Spokesperson Lora LaMarca says that two tiger attacks at the zoo are partly to blame.

Now the zoo is looking at measures ranging from layoffs to reducing park hours to close a $2.2 million revenue shortfall.

Since a 2007 tiger attack, the zoo reports they've lost $430,000 in cancelled memberships and $1.2 million in donations. In addition, attendance has dropped by more than 20,800 in the zoo's 2008-2009 fiscal year.

On Christmas Day in 2007, one zoo visitor was killed and two brothers were injured when they were attacked by Tatiana, a Siberian tiger who escaped from her enclosure. 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. was found with a slashed throat near the the exhibit.

Police were able to distract and kill the cat. Zoo officials were under the impression that the tiger had been taunted, possibly with slingshots, which they believe provoked the tiger to escape. The zoo installed glazing and fencing on top of a barrier wall to extend it to a minimum of 19 feet following the incident. In addition, a concrete moat wall was extended to 16 feet 4 inches and a hotwire was installed.

In 2006, Tatiana attacked her keeper during a feeding, causing deep lacerations to the keeper's arms. The zoo was blamed for the incident and fined $18,000.

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