Friday, December 22, 2006

San Francisco Zoo tiger mauls keeper

Michael Taylor and Patricia Yollin, Chronicle Staff Writers
Saturday, December 23, 2006

A 350-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana attacked her keeper at the San Francisco Zoo during feeding time Friday afternoon as dozens of visitors looked on, causing deep lacerations to the keeper's arms.

The keeper, who zoo officials refused to name but sources identified as Lori Komejan, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where she underwent surgery for the cuts.

She was "alert and conscious" when she was taken by ambulance to the hospital, said Robert Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care and conservation. A talented artist who likes to draw animals, she has been employed by the zoo since 1997.

One or two staffers who were in the lion house when the attack happened at 2:22 p.m. grabbed Komejan and pulled her away from the tiger.

"I credit them with ensuring that the wounds weren't greater than they were," Jenkins said.

He said he did not know what led to the attack. Security officers interviewed several visitors who saw the incident.

"We don't know if there was any intent (to harm) on the tiger's part," Jenkins said.

He said it is not clear what will happen to Tatiana, but that it is "not normal procedure" to euthanize a big animal for this kind of behavior. The 3 1/2-year-old tiger arrived in San Francisco from the Denver Zoo on December 16, 2005. Jenkins said she has no history of aggression toward humans.

Komejan was attacked after the feeding of the four lions and three tigers that live in the lion house, Jenkins said. He called the session a "favorite attraction" for zoo visitors.

Patrons watch the feeding from behind a barrier that is about 4 feet from the cages. Between the barrier and the animals' cages is a kind of no-man's land where the zoo's employees are allowed.

Around 2 p.m., the keeper put Tatiana's specialized meat meal -- based on horsemeat and weighing 3 to 5 pounds -- in the steel food door near the bottom of Tatiana's cage.

Once the keeper puts the meat in the device, the door on the keeper's side closes, and another on the tiger's side opens. That way, there is no danger of the big cat touching the keeper.

All went well during the feeding, Jenkins said. However, a few minutes after Tatiana was fed, she somehow managed to get her paws on Komejan's forearms. It's not clear whether Tatiana thrust her paws through the bars, which are a few inches apart, or whether the feeder's hands were close enough to the bars for Tatiana to grab them.

Tyler Bridges and his 4-year-old daughter, Luciana, were in the lion house when the attack occurred. They had just finished chatting with the keeper and were walking away.

"She had just said, 'We feed them rabbits every Tuesday and Friday.' Fifteen seconds later, I hear her screaming," said Bridges, 46. "I see her with her back to us, facing the cage. Both of her hands were in front of her. Then somebody tried to pull her away from the tiger. I was about 15 to 20 feet away.

"I picked up my daughter -- she was very traumatized. Some visitors were running out, zoo workers were running in. While we were heading out, I could still hear her screaming."

Bridges, the Miami Herald's bureau chief in Lima, Peru, said it was his daughter's first visit to the San Francisco Zoo. Although the family lives in Peru, they are spending Christmas with his mother in Palo Alto.

Tatiana, who was born in Denver on June 27, 2003, was brought to San Francisco as a companion for Tony, a 14-year-old Siberian tiger whose sibling and lifelong companion, Emily, died in late 2004 from cancer of the spleen.

Although they were standoffish at first, Tony and Tatiana started having physical contact without barriers in February, graduating to bouts of torrid sex.

Jenkins said the tiger attack was "the only injury of its kind that has happened at this zoo."

However, employees have been attacked over the years by various animals, including gorillas, elephants and kangaroos. In May 1987, then-keeper Jane Tollini was mauled by a leopard named Farrah. And in February 2001, bird specialist Peter Shannon was assaulted by a cassowary that tore into his legs with its claws. TIGER.TMP

Escape of clouded leopard closes National Zoo

Friday, December 22, 2006 - Last updated 12:10 p.m. PT

WASHINGTON -- The National Zoo was briefly shut down Friday after a clouded leopard was discovered missing from a wire-mesh enclosure, and the animal was found snoozing just outside the exhibit 30 minutes later.

Mook, a 5-year-old, 24-pound female, apparently escaped overnight, zoo spokesman John Gibbons said.

Zookeepers realized she was missing shortly after 7 a.m. and alerted other staffers, he said. Joggers and other early morning visitors were escorted off zoo property, while others were ushered into a building for safety.

Gibbons said one of the keepers found Mook sleeping just outside the exhibit on the new Asia Trail. She was anesthetized with a tranquilizer gun shortly after 7:30 a.m. and returned to captivity.

"Everything went according to plan," Gibbons said. "Fortunately, we train for this kind of thing."

According to the Web site of the Clouded Leopard Project, a conservation group, the animals are medium-sized wild cats with cloud-like spots and are a separate species from regular leopards. They are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. _Escapes.html

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ukraine: Tiger bites off ear of visitor who falls into zoo cage

Updated 12/18/2006 8:34 AM ET

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A tiger bit off the ear of a visitor who fell into her enclosure at a zoo in southern Ukraine, the zoo administration said Monday.

The 33-year-old Ukrainian man climbed on the bars surrounding the enclosure to pose for photographs and fell into the cage holding the tiger and her cubs, said Yuriy Kyrychenko, the deputy director of the zoo in the city of Mykolaiv, about 300 miles south of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The man was drunk when the incident occurred Friday.

The tiger attacked the man, biting off his ear and scratching his neck. He was hospitalized in a serious condition, Kyrychenko said.

"The man, his sister and their friend drank a bottle of vodka and then came to our zoo for entertainment," Kyrychenko told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Police launched a probe into the accident.

There are no plans to put down the tiger, who was "recovering from a shock," Kyrychenko said.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Florida: "Pet" bobcat stuck in 80-foot tree

UPDATED: 6:43 pm EST December 11, 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- An Arlington family's fears were eased on Monday after a man rescued their pet bobcat, who got himself stuck in a tree a week ago and would not come down.

The cat's owner, Julie Johnson, said she was concerned that with recent freezing temperatures and no food or water, the cat's life may have been in danger.

"My kitty, Duma -- he's a 7-month-old bobcat -- climbed up the tree Dec. 4, last Monday, and he's been up there ever since," Johnson said.

Duma climbed all the way to the highest point of an oak tree and was hanging on for dear life as a branch swayed in the breeze about 80 feet above the ground.

For seven days, Johnson stood in her back yard calling up to her stranded cat. And for seven days, Duma's bowl of food was untouched.

After a week, a man came to the stranded feline's aid. Al Pope, a construction worker, said he heard about the stranded pet and decided to help.

He knew it was going to be a challenge but said the challenge was something he was going to try.

Using a few simple tools and a big heart, Pope went to work. More than an hour later, he lowered a gym bag with Duma inside.

Johnson told Channel 4 all she could do was express thanks.

"There are people in the world that will help you, take the chance of risking their life to get a kitty cat out of the top of a tall oak tree," Johnson said. "I'm just glad he's down and safe."

After he was brought down, Johnson took Duma to an area veterinarian to get checked out.

As for Pope, the humble hero chose not to speak at length about the rescue. He said his reasoning was very simple, "No special reason. Just to help them out."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cougar mauls girl at Miami birthday party

Posted on Thu, Dec. 07, 2006

For his child's birthday party, Goya Foods executive Francisco Unanue hired a troupe of exotic animals that included a 62-pound cougar named Georgia.

The party ended badly when Georgia mauled a 4-year-old guest.

Now the owner of the Kendall-based Wild Animal World -- who has been cited in two similar past attacks -- faces a misdemeanor charge of allowing injury to the public.

The child is recovering from injuries to her face. Georgia was euthanized last week as part of a rabies test.

"The family wants this to be the last child who is attacked by these animals," said Dan Dolan, the attorney of the injured girl, who has not been identified.

"We feel that Wild Animal World has a horrible history of these kinds of events and we're going to do whatever we can to make sure this is the last one."

The entire attack was videotaped by a man hired by Unanue to film the party for his 7-year-old child.

Unanue's attorney, Frank M. Smith, has not allowed authorities access to the tape.

The Nov. 18 party was held near the pool at Unanue's luxurious home on the 7300 block of Los Pinos Blvd. in Coral Gables.

According to Coral Gables police, Wild Animal World owner and trainer Corinne Oltz said she instructed the children to remain calm and quiet as she brought Georgia out.

Oltz was seated with her back to the pool so "no one could sneak up from behind."

But during the presentation, the girl walked behind the animal kennels and startled the cougar, police said.

One witness told police that "no one saw the child approach the animal until it was too late."

The declawed cat grasped the child's head with her teeth. The girl suffered severe lacerations to her eyelid, left cheek and ear. Doctors sewed back part of her severed ear.

The attack is being investigated by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is also examining whether Oltz keeps her animals caged properly. The misdemeanor charge has not been filed yet.

Miami-Dade County also is looking at whether Oltz carries the proper permits.

Wild Animal World, a non-profit, offers a "wide variety of educational, exciting and professional interaction with exotic animals," and one-hour birthday party shows for $270 in Miami-Dade, according to its website.

Animals include Charlie the ringtail lemur, Popeye the anteater and Cookie the Guyanese porcupine.

Georgia is described as the smallest of the company's three cougars, which are not considered endangered.

From the company's website: "She is a tremendous lover, constantly wanting attention and always grooming her trainers with her rough tongue."

Oltz, the owner and trainer, insisted to police that the cat had proper vaccinations.

After the family of the injured child called the health department, officials asked Oltz to release the animal for testing.

She refused, the health department went to court and Circuit Judge Leonard Glick authorized the cat's seizure.

"Cougars are wild animals," health department attorney Morton Laitner said Thursday. "There is no vaccine that works on wild animals."

The cat was seized Dec. 1 at Wild Animal World, 10495 SW 60th St. The girl's father joined investigators to help identify the cat.

As is done in such rabies tests, the cat's head was removed and sent to a lab where its brain was tested.

Results showed the cat did not have rabies, officials say, so the injured child will avoid painful rabies shots.

Oltz has been cited for attacks in the past, authorities said.

In 1999, she was cited in a similar attack, also in Coral Gables. She received a conviction for a wildlife cage violation, court records show.

In 2001, a Wild Animal World leopard attacked a child at a company picnic in Broward County. She received probation for wildlife possession violations, court records show.

"That one was a fraction of an inch from going to the brain stem. That would have killed the kid instantly," remembered FFW Lt. Pat Reynolds, who is investigating the Coral Gables attack.

Oltz, Unanue and Smith did not return phone calls from The Miami Herald.

Oltz's qualifications, as listed on the company website: she worked at a bond brokerage firm and modeled for "for catalogues [sic], t.v. and movies."

Of why she works at Wild Animal World, Oltz says, "I always wanted to do a photo session with a big cat. They provided one on a modeling shoot and I was hooked!" nation/16189625.htm

Thursday, December 07, 2006

China: Escaped zoo leopard attacks keeper, shot dead

Updated: 2006-12-06 18:38

BEIJING -- A leopard, a species under top-level state protection in China, was shot dead by local police Tuesday after escaping from its cage in a zoo in East China's Fujian province.

The leopard was found roaming the grounds of the Yuanyangchi Zoo at 7 a.m., sparking off a series of blunders by zoo staff and local police.

The zookeeper, with the assistance of the police, failed several times to shoot the leopard with a hand-made bow and anesthetic arrow before being attacked and injured by the irritated animal.

The team then turned to a narcotics gun borrowed by the police from another department. But it failed to fire.

The policemen, claiming to have been granted approval from local administrative departments, then drove two cars into the zoo at 2:00 p.m. and shot the leopard dead.

After an investigation, the policemen were found not to have sought permission from related government departments to kill the leopard and the zoo did not have a valid operation license. The animal keepers were also found to lack official qualifications for raising wildlife.

China's web portal posted a questionnaire on its website on Wednesday to gauge public opinion about the incident and will release the results soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

F1 Savannah cat on the loose near Chicago

Owner Fears 'Tiki' Can't Survive Cold

POSTED: 1:53 pm CST December 5, 2006
UPDATED: 2:28 pm CST December 5, 2006

GILBERTS, Ill. -- Nancy Starrenburg, an avid animal rescuer from northwest suburban Gilberts, has been missing a part of her family since early November -- her 3-year-old cat, Tiki.

Tiki's not just any household cat. He's an F1 Savannah (similar to the one pictured) -- 75 percent African serval (an African wild cat) and 25 percent domestic Bengal (an ancestor of the Asian leopard cat). These cats are rare, and while Starrenburg declined to put an exact dollar amount on Tiki's value, breeding sites say they can go for as much as a 2007 Chevrolet Aveo.

Tiki is not only rare and valuable, but he's smart, having learned to open doors. And on Nov. 9 he did just that and ran out of the family's home, according to Starrenburg.

"We're just heartbroken. He's truly our baby," said Starrenburg, who has two dogs and 10 cats on her farm. "It's just so unfair considering I'm very active in rescue and I've helped so many guys [cats and dogs] out by finding them foster homes and by taking in strays."

Regardless, Tiki's atypical appearance and athletic ability would make him hard to miss, said Starrenburg, who has posted several signs around the community describing the exotic cat.

"He has a beige, silvery and tawny coat with black spots," she said. "He's very slender and tall with large ears with eye spots on the back of them and he can leap 8 to 8 feet in the air."

A glimmer of hope remains after Tiki, who was a gift to Starrenburg, was spotted last Saturday along Binnie Road at an abandoned farmstead.

Even so, Starrenburg's faith is dwindling.

"He's probably suffering because his native habitat is in the African savannah and I don't know if he can survive the cold or not. He's been indoors all of his life. I'm just hoping he gets cold enough and hungry enough to go to a person."

Starrenburg is offering a substantial monetary reward to anyone who finds Tiki. Anyone with information can call 847-428-9194.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Spain: Circus tiger rips off man's arm

December 3, 2006

A man was in serious condition today after a circus tiger in Spain ripped off his left arm.

The 31-year-old Polish man was with a another man looking for a job at the temporary circus in the town of Zafra.

The man entered an area forbidden to the public and tried to take a picture with his mobile of the tiger.

However, he got too close to the cages and was attacked.

Hospital officials in Zafra said the man was in a serious condition.