Wednesday, July 30, 2008

'Maneater' triggers panic in West Champaran district

'Maneater' triggers panic in West Champaran district

29 Jul 2008, 0300 hrs IST, Arun Kumar David,TNN

BETTIAH: The recent death of a person at the hands of a man-eating tiger has unleashed a reign of terror among people living on the fringes of the Valmikinagar Tiger Project in West Champaran. Villagers claim there is a man-eater on the project premises who kills villagers.

However, the chief conservator of forests, West Champaran, Bharat Jyoti said there was no man-eater within the the project precincts, adding that although there have been regular encounters between the two species, but there has been no news of tiger devouring any human.

"The tiger's attack may be out of aggressive behaviour or insecurity on its part. It is when people interfere with its style of living or someone going into its sanctuary that it attacks," he said.

Jyoti said people do not realize that they are encroaching the domain of the tiger making the tiger feel insecure complicating the matter.

"I visited the Doan area and night patrolled the area to alert the people, asking them to stay away from the core area of the Valmiki Tiger Project," said Jyoti adding that the SSB jawan killed by a tiger on May 12, 2008, had also been warned by him.

He said that pamphlets with clear-cut instructions have been distributed in the villages situated on the outskirts of the project to stop the people going into the core area.

"The tigers who killed people in the past never came to the villages or open fields and carried the deceased nor they ever punctured the neck to kill them," he said adding the attack was with their claws.

With the rapid growth in human population, there is alarming interference in the jungles, making the wild cats feel insecure, said S Chandrashekhar DFO 1, adding the cat may become furious if it has cubs with it.

Naturally, the habitat that nurtured the big cats for centuries is inviting less attention today. As a fallout, there has been great loss of forest habitat and requires conservation efforts on the part of the government, sources said.

In the backdrop of the current scenario, an Indicative Tiger Conservation has been mooted that addresses some vital issues pertaining to short and long-term measures for safeguarding the tiger sanctuary, said Jyoti adding that it has been proposed to double the core critical area.

Talks are on for creating a buffer zone. At least 150 villages are to be included in the buffer zone increasing the overall management of the Tiger Project to 1500 sq km.

Within this specified area, a number of micro plans have been proposed that may help conservation of the habitat, said Jyoti.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tiger attacks on rise in Indian Sundarbans after cyclone

Tiger attacks on rise in Indian Sundarbans after cyclone

July 30th, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS

By Soudhriti Bhabani

Kolkata, July 30 (IANS) A rise in tiger attacks in the Sundarbans mangrove forests of India indicates that the big cats are crossing over from Bangladesh where Cyclone Sidr destroyed much of their habitat, say wildlife activists in West Bengal. “A large number of tigers and crocodiles have entered into India’s side of the Sundarbans after being flushed out by Cyclonic Sidr that ravaged Bangladesh in November last year,” Debasis Chakraborty, wildlife crusader and People for Animals (PFA) managing trustee, told IANS.

“A vast area of mangrove forests was affected by that natural disaster leading to a serious displacement of wild animals.”

He said a fisherman, Putul Naskar, was dragged away by a tiger at Benipheli forest in the Sundarbans Sunday morning when he was busy catching crabs from the river.

“This was the ninth tiger attack in the Sundarbans since December last year and the sixth in the monsoon season. The tigers from Bangladesh side crossed the water channel and entered the Sundarbans in West Bengal through the Jhilla point in search of food.

“These tigers are not familiar with the human habitation and are attacking people very frequently,” Chakraborty said.

The Sundarbans has a vast area covering 4,262 sq km, including a mangrove cover of 2,125 sq km, in India alone. A larger portion lies in Bangladesh.

Cyclone Sidr in the Bay of Bengal left behind a trail of devastation last year killing over 3,000 people and uprooting a large area of the mangrove forests in Bangladesh.

West Bengal Sundarbans Affairs Minister Kanti Ganguly told IANS: “A good number of tigers might have come to this (India) side in search of food. They are also attacking people living in the deltaic region.”

Chakraborty said: “We request all villagers of the Sundarbans not to go out for fishing and collect forest products inside the core area during monsoon, though it’s regarded as off-season for tiger attacks.

“This is their (tigers’) mating season and they prefer to stay inside the dense forest area. But because of big cat infiltration from Bangladesh the tiger concentration has increased in the Sundarbans bio-sphere,” Chakraborty said.

According to reports, an 18-year-old fisherman, Narayan Das, was mauled to death at Kultali in the Sunderbans a few weeks ago.

In another incident, a tiger attacked 45-year-old Jangal Pramanik in Kultali when he was out with a fishing team in the Surjyamoni canal. A tiger suddenly pounced on Pramanik and injured him severely. When other fishermen raised an alarm, the tiger ran away.

A 45-year-old woman was killed in a crocodile attack while catching crabs in a river last week.

A tiger had sneaked into a farmer’s kitchen in the Sunderbans, triggering fear among the villagers.

“This kind of behaviour is not common among the Sundarbans tiger. It is very familiar with human habitation and hardly comes to the densely populated areas during monsoon.

“Sundarbans tigers are also experts in catching their prey. But the behaviour of tigers from the Bangladesh side, which were uprooted from their original territory due to Cyclone Sidr, is very unpredictable.”

Sunderbans is perhaps the only place in the world where man is not on top of the food chain. The tiger’s predatory instincts clash with human nature constantly in the Sundarbans, leading to a deadly battle for survival between the two.

Minister Ganguly said the state government was also planning pig and buffalo farming along the riverbanks in West Bengal’s Sundarbans.

“The project would be undertaken to provide food to the tigers and check the rising number of attacks.”

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tiger Attacks: Who takes the blame?

Tiger Attacks: Who takes the blame?

Even as extinction stares the tiger in its face, attacks on humans venturing to core areas of tiger reserve continue to be blamed on it. This leaves little chance for survival of the most beautiful of big cats, the Bengal Tigers in the Sunderbans.

AMIRUL NAIYA narrowly escaped from the jaws of death on Thursday evening (24 July), when a tiger swam to his mechanised country boat anchored on Kendodwip in the Sunderbans and grabbed him. But for Anarul, his quick thinking brother, he would have lost his life.

Anarul abandoned the fishing net he was cleaning and caught Anirul’s free arm. The other arm was in the mouth of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The tug-of-war lasted 15 minutes; then the tiger gave up. Amirul was taken to Basanti for treatment and is said to be recovering.

Blame it on the tiger. But was the tiger really at fault? What exactly were the brothers doing in Kendodwip? Kendodwip is in the core area of Sunderban’s Tiger Reserve. Core areas of tiger reserves are by definition strictly forbidden to human beings. Amirul and his brothers were in the middle of it.

They were not only breaking the law; they were invading the habitat of one of the most critically endangered species of the world, the panthera tigris tigris, otherwise known as the Bengal Tiger. A habitat is where tigers are free to roam and hunt. Kendodwip lies in this tiger’s range and he was merely trying to get his meal.

Consider a group of total strangers using your bedroom for the night without as much as by your leave. Unless you are a reincarnation of Gautam Buddha chances are you will turn them out of your house; and you are hardly likely to be blamed for doing so. The tiger, curiously, is blamed for attacking intruders within space, which belongs exclusively to him. Attacks on the likes of Amirul are without exception said to be the tigers’ fault.

Where there is intrusion there is bound to be conflict. This is true of humans as well as animals. The spate of media report on tiger attacks merely proves human invasion of tiger habitat is on the rise. “A tiger attacks villagers, when they venture into the prohibited area,” says Atanu Raha, principal chief conservator of forest, West Bengal while explaining one of the recent attacks by tigers.

Things become difficult for the tiger when the season for collection of honey arrives. People throng the jungles for this lucrative forest produce. “Villagers enter the forests, with or without permits, to collect honey. The recent incident was not a case of a stray tiger, rather here the villagers fell prey to an attack in the jungle itself,” said Col Shakti Banerjee, Honorary Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). He was referring to yet another attack by a tiger within his range.

The rapid increase in the population in India has lead to an alarming loss of tiger habitat in the Sunderbans and elsewhere in the country. The problem does not get any easier with illegal felling and poaching thrown in. Yet, political will to provide protection to the animals is seldom visible.

Any attempt to take the first step towards resolving the conflict involves sticky problems of relocation of villages and alternate employment of villagers. Unpopular measures all. So, we hear much, but see little. The tiger after all, cannot vote. People can and do. It will not do to upset sections of voters for a bunch of wild animals.

It is about time the perspective on tiger attacks changes. Today our tigers face extinction. There are 1,140 tigers in India now compared to 40,000 at the end of the 19th century. In the Sunderbans there are less than 300 tigers. Saving the tigers is important to maintain the ecological balance of the region. A loss of balance will result in a domino effect, which if it does occur will go completely out of hand and spell ecological disaster at an unprecedented scale.

A billion people versus a mere 1,100 tigers. What chances do the tigers have? Indeed what chances do these most magnificent and precious of all creatures have! What chances, in turn, does our world have?

32-yr-old fisherman mauled by tiger in Sunderban

32-yr-old fisherman mauled by tiger in Sunderban

Express News Service
Posted online: Monday , July 28, 2008 at 03:45:15
Updated: Monday , July 28, 2008 at 03:45:15

Kolkata, July 27 Once again, Sunderban recorded a tiger attack on Sunday and this time it was a fisherman.

A Royal Bengal tiger pounced on 32-year-old Putul Naskar, who was on his boat and dragged him into Benisiliforest of the Sunderbans, police said.

Naskar had gone into the forest to look for crabs.

Earlier, State Forest Minister Ananta Roy had expressed his concern over fishermen repeatedly venturing into the core area, which is a prohibited zone, and falling prey to tigers.

Fishing and all kinds of commercial activities are prohibited in the core area but a section of residents regularly breached the fencing.

The state government was encouraging pig-rearing by locals so that the animals could be released into the core area to maintain the food chain, while NGOs were being involved in raising public awareness against entering the core area.

On July 1, a villager in Kalashdwip had fallen prey to tiger attack after he had stepped into the creeks of Sunderbans for fishing.

Two more killed in tiger attack

Two more killed in tiger attack

28 Jul 2008, 0508 hrs IST, Mazhar Ali,TNN

CHANDRAPUR: Tiger terror is back in the forests of Nagbhid tehsil as the big cat claimed two more lives on Saturday evening in Balapur FDCM territory. The villagers recovered the mutilated dead bodies of deceased Rajeshwar Kumre (55) and Ramesh Ichkape (20), both shepherds from village Jankapur in Nagbhid tehsil on Sunday morning.

With this, six persons have died since March this year in Nagbhid tehsil whereas the toll of human kill by tiger in Chandrapur district this year has risen to 10. Sources said, Kumre's body had injury marks on neck and back.

The body of Ichkape was found some 1 km away from the body of Kumre and the tiger had eaten one entire leg of the deceased.

Villagers suspect shepherds fell prey to a tigress

CHANDRAPUR: The big cat claimed two more lives on Saturday evening in Balapur FDCM territory. Sources said that the bodies of the two deceased shepherds, Ichkape and Kumre, were found on Sunday morning.

The police from Talodhi outpost, located at about 6 kms from the place of incident, reached the spot for completing the necessary formalities, but on insistence of villagers moved the bodies to Jankapur even before the forest authorities could reach there.

Meanwhile, villagers from Janakapur are suspecting that both the shepherds might have become victims of a tigress that was sighted with two of its cubs, some time back in the forests on the fringes of Janakapur. Sources claimed that the spot where the duo was killed falls in compartment No 70 of Balapur FDCM headed by divisional manager S Khairnar.

Nagbhid police station and Mandar Vaidya, SDO, Bramhapuri division, confirmed the incident and held that it was the act of a tiger. However, no concerned forest officer could be reached for further details.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Teenage Tour Guide Mauled by Lion

By Michael MacLeod

A TEENAGE gap year student says she feels lucky to be alive after being mauled by a lion while working abroad as a tour guide.

Lisa Baxter, 19, was working at a safari park in New Zealand when Timba, an African White Lion, sunk his teeth into both her hands.

But the animal-lover knew that if she screamed out, she might wake the rest of the pack and she'd have no chance of survival.

So she calmly patted the lion's nose and freed herself before calling for help from colleagues.

And although Lisa had to cut her trip short to come home and recover, she insists she is glad she lived to tell the tale.

Speaking from her home in Gullane, Lisa recalls: "I was giving a talk to a group of tourists and stroking Timba's nose when he just grabbed my hand.

"His teeth were razor sharp and went straight through my skin.

"I knew not to panic, so tapped his nose to get him to back off, but he bit that hand as well. Luckily the second time his teeth didn't stay in my hand for too long."

Timba was one of a family of five lions in the enclosure, and the attack on Lisa could have been much worse if the others had gotten involved.

She said: "If the others in the pack weren't all sleeping I might not have made it home to tell the story, so thank god they all stayed asleep." 

But although she will now be scarred for life, she says she doesn't blame the one-and-a-half-year-old cat.

She said: "I know he was only playing and totally blame myself for what happened.

"I really don't think he was trying to rip me apart or be violent at all, if anything he thought we were playing, because he's only 18 months old.

"But even at that age lions are still huge, and I felt like screaming. But if I had I'm sure they all would have come over."

Because Lisa stayed so quiet throughout the attack, the tour group she was guiding were none the wiser until a colleague came to assist her and they saw the blood.

The animal biology student was whisked off to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.

Doctors gave her 13 stitches but the wounds were so wide that the medics wouldn't discharge her for another four days and kept her on continuous antibiotics.

She said: "My hands were so swollen I thought they were going to explode. It really wasn't nice."

Despite her ordeal, Lisa says nothing can put her off her ambition of becoming an animal handler.

She said: "I still really want to go out to Africa or South America to work with more big cats.

"Animals are my passion. I'm not scared at all, whether it's hugging a bear or stroking lions, nothing phases me."

 Already Lisa has volunteered at Deep Sea World the SSPCA and Edinburgh Zoo where she handled snakes.

 As well as being fearless, she admits to being "overly glamorous" when working with animals.

She said: "I don't mind picking up animal poo or getting muddy, as long as I've got my make up on.

"I'm not girly or squeamish, I'll do anything as long as I look nice for the pictures.

"Handling animals is something I've always been naturally good at, and I'd happily go meet Timba again, he's a lovely wee thing."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

SF Zoo Statements At Odds With Tiger Case Records

SF Zoo Statements At Odds With Tiger Case Records
Jul 14, 2008 12:18 pm US/Pacific

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS Radio) ― San Francisco Zoo officials now say they were purposely trying to reduce the weight of the tiger that killed a teenager on Christmas Day by 40-50 pounds, in contrast to the zoo's own records and earlier comments to news reporters.

Tatiana arrived from the Denver Zoo in December 2005 as a healthy two and a half year old weighing 292 pounds. Last month, a KCBS Radio investigation revealed that her weight dropped steadily in San Francisco -- into the 270s in 2006, the 260s in the first half of last year, to 255 last November and to 244 eight days before the fatal attack. Her necropsy set her weight at death at 242 pounds, her lowest since she was 15 months old.

Despite the steady and significant decline, zoo veterinarian Jacqueline Jencek said in a February interview that Tatiana's weight loss was "seasonal," that she lost weight in winter and put it back on in summer. In the 20-minute interview, Jencek did not say the zoo was purposely trying to shed significant weight from the tiger. The dozens of pages of records obtained from the zoo also make no mention of a continuing weight reduction program for Tatiana.

But eight days after KCBS Radio and CBS 5 broadcast the original reports about Tatiana's weight loss, Jencek told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter inquiring about the story that Tatiana was fed less to purposely lower her weight from the 290s to "about 250." The Denver Zoo, however, said that Tatiana was healthy when she was shipped to San Francisco, and that there was "no indication that there was any concern about her weight." In her last six months in Denver, she had weighed between 292 and 299 pounds.

According to the Chronicle, Jencek said the San Francisco Zoo had consulted several other zoos, including Denver's, "before determining that Tatiana… should weigh about 250 pounds." But zoo records reveal that information from the other zoos was used to support a diet increase, not a decrease, for the tiger.

On February 10, 2006, six weeks after Tatiana attacked a zookeeper by clawing and chewing her arm, she weighed in at 260 pounds. It was her first weighing since the attack and her lowest weight since her arrival, but still above the 250 pounds the zoo now says was her target. But on the very next day, the zoo approved a diet increase for Tatiana, from the 32-36 pounds a week they had fed her since her arrival to 38-42 pounds, close to what she had been fed in Denver. Attached to the diet increase request form were the notes from the other zoos, indicating larger diets for similar tigers, and apparently supporting the increase in food for Tatiana.

Five weeks later, without weighing her again, the zoo reduced her diet back to 32-36 pounds a week, because, a zoo official said, she was "gaining too much weight." Her diet stayed at the lower amount even as she fell to 244 pounds when she was weighed on December 17, eight days before the fatal attack. She was four and a half years old.

Zoo officials declined to be interviewed about the discrepancies among their most recent statements, their own records and what they had previously told reporters.

While her necropsy showed her to be in good health, and in "good nutritional status" according to the zoo, Tatiana's significant weight loss raised questions about whether she was getting enough to eat to satisfy a wild animal, and how that might have affected her behavior.

Related Slideshows

San Francisco Zoo Tiger Attack

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Bangladeshi wrestles with tiger to save brother

Bangladeshi wrestles with tiger to save brother

DHAKA (AFP) — A Bangladeshi man said he fought with a tiger for 30 minutes to save his brother who was critically injured in the attack.

The two men and their father were fishing in Bangladesh's Sunderbans mangrove forest when the tiger pounced, assistant conservator of the forest Bipul Krishna Das told AFP.

One of the brothers was rushed to Sharonkhola sub-district hospital and is in a critical condition following the attack on Wednesday morning, duty doctor Bablu Kishore Biswas said.

"The sharp claw of the tiger penetrated into his jaw. Luckily his neck is not broken, but still his condition is critical," the doctor said.

The younger brother, Masud Mollah, said that without thinking about his own safety, he approached the tiger and grabbed its mouth so it couldn't bite.

Masud, who is being treated for shock, said he fought with the tiger for about 30 minutes after it pounced on his sibling without warning.

"Suddenly, with no warning, a tiger pounced on my brother and he fell down the slope of the canal. He yelled to me to help him. His face was smeared with blood and the tiger was licking it off," Masud said.

"My brother had been holding a big knife, but he dropped it when the tiger attacked. I grabbed the knife, which was lying close to the tiger, and I hit it with the handle."

Masud said he continued to fight with the animal until it gave up and headed back into the forest.

Forest officials have said an increasing human presence in the Sunderbans forest is mainly to blame for a growing number of tiger-related deaths.

According to a UN-funded census, the 10,000 square kilometres Sunderbans mangrove forest, which straddles India and Bangladesh, is home to at least 668 endangered Royal Bengal tigers, with some 420 living on the Bangladesh side.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Paramilitary trooper killed by tiger in Bihar

Paramilitary trooper killed by tiger in Bihar
8 Jul, 2008, 1732 hrs IST, IANS

PATNA: A paramilitary Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) trooper has been killed by a tiger in a national park in Bihar's West Champaran district, police said on Tuesday.

Pramod K. Singh, an SSB jawan of 12th battalion, was attacked and killed by a tiger near the Kismi rivulet in the Valmiki National Park, a police official said.

The national park, which is Bihar's only tiger project, is over 250 km from here.

The incident has created panic among the SSB personnel and villagers who moved about freely in the forest despite warnings by forest officials.

Last May, a woman was killed by a tiger in the national park.

However, the tiger population in the Valmiki National Park has been decreasing at an alarming rate, according to the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

According to the report, there were 56 tigers in the park in 2002 and the number came down to 33 by 2005.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fisherman survives tiger attack

Fisherman survives tiger attack

By Amitabha Bhattasali
BBC News, Calcutta

An Indian fisherman whose father was killed by a tiger 20 years ago has dramatically survived a similar attack in the state of West Bengal.

The Bengal tiger struck on Tuesday as Fatik Halder was crab fishing in the Sunderbans mangrove forest.

For 20 minutes he was embroiled in a life or death battle with the animal, which bit and clawed him repeatedly.

Mr Halder then had to survive a traumatic journey to Calcutta to get treatment injuries to his upper body.

As Mr Halder fought the tiger he remembered that his father, Gour, had been killed in a similar attack.

"Around 10 o'clock in the morning, when I jumped into the water in Benifeli forest and threw in the [fishing] net, I suddenly felt a searing pain," he told the BBC.

"I didn't know, for a couple of seconds, what had hit me."

Realising that he was under attack from a man-eater, Mr Halder decided to fight back.

He thought of his two children and wife, who were at home waiting for him to return. He frantically dug his heels into the mud and levered his fingers under the tiger's jaws.

"The pain was becoming unbearable. I don't know how I managed to dodge the blows," he said.

The animal's teeth pierced his right shoulder.

It tried to wrestle him to the river bed with its paws but the water and mud made it difficult for it to keep its footing and it finally gave up.


Bleeding and traumatised, the injured fisherman then had to survive another ordeal - the 10-hour journey to Calcutta for medical treatment.

Fatik's heroic survival has already passed into local folklore.

He now insists that his fishing days are over and that he will be looking for some other job.

But perhaps he should consider himself lucky to be nursing his injuries alive.

A day before he was attacked another man, Narayan Das, was savaged by a tiger which clawed him in the neck inside the Sunderbans reserve.

It happened when Mr Das' boat became stuck in one of the numerous creeks that criss-cross the mangrove forest and he and other fisherman jumped into the water to push.

By the time his friends managed to fend the tiger off using kitchen utensils, sticks and other items, Mr Das was critically injured.

He was officially declared dead in the nearest town 100km (62 miles) away.

His family will not get any compensation, forestry officials say, because the fishermen were trespassing in the tiger reserve.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tiger mauls fisherman to death

Tiger mauls fisherman to death

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 : 1535 Hrs

Canning (PTI): A tiger has killed a fisherman near Binifeli jungle in Kalasdwip near the Sunderbans in South 24-Parganas district, police said on Tuesday.

Narayan Das (20) was attacked while fishing with his brother-in-law on the river on Monday night.

Das belonged to Kalyani in Nadia district and had been on a holiday visit to the area.

San Francisco denies liability in tiger attack

San Francisco denies liability in tiger attack
Sean Webby
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/30/2008 02:45:21 PM PDT

Family members of a San Jose teen fatally mauled by a Siberian tiger on Christmas Day at the San Francisco Zoo will file a lawsuit against the city as soon as this month, according to their lawyer.
Carlos Sousa Jr.'s family accuses the zoo of wrongful death and negligence in a claim that San Francisco rejected on Friday. The city says Cardoza is going after the wrong agency.

But Cardoza said the city is the responsible party.

"The city ought to build a river though the zoo and call it the moat of denial," Michael Cardoza said Monday. "They didn't underfeed the animal. They denied anything ever happened the first time Tatiana bit somebody. When they undertake to house dangerous animals the law says they are liable."

Late Christmas day, Tatiana, a 250-pound Siberian tiger, leaped from her grotto and fatally mauled the 17-year-old Sousa. Tatiana also seriously wounded two of his friends, brothers Amritpal and Kulbir Dhaliwal, both of San Jose. Police eventually shot and killed the tiger.

According to City Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Dorsey, the denial is a procedural step that referred the claimants to the San Francisco Zoological Society and its insurer. Sousa's attorney can now file a lawsuit within six months.

'It's not a qualitative judgment about the seriousness of the tragedy," Dorsey said Monday. "We're in no way seeking to minimize the terrible loss suffered by the Sousa family."

In May, the city likewise denied a claim filed by attorneys for the Dhaliwals.

After the maulings, San Francisco police investigated whether the young men may have taunted the tiger. On Jan. 29, police suspended the investigation without filing any charges.

Since that time, the zoo has also spent $1.7 million on safety renovations, and the fence now stands at 16.4 feet. It was nearly four feet lower than industry standards.

Carodoza said the city and the zoo and others should stop blaming his client and the two brothers and take a more critical look at themselves.

"We are suing the right people," said Cardoza. "A young man's life taken because of the way that zoo was run. The public should be up in arms."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Zoo Denies Tiger Underfed Before Attack

Zoo Denies Tiger Underfed Before Attack

By Ivan Velinov
Epoch Times San Francisco Staff
Jul 01, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—San Francisco Zoo officials disputed a report, that Tatiana, a female Siberian Tiger that mauled a teenage visitor of the zoo in December, might have been fed less and was hungry before the deadly attack.

Last week, zoo officials published a statement in response to a KCBS radio report which claimed that Tatiana had allegedly lost at least 50 pounds since her arrival at the San Francisco Zoo. The radio report raised concerns that the tiger might have been fed less than in her previous home in Denver which might have been a factor that triggered her aggressive attack.

"The autopsy shows that she was in a good nutritional state and good body state. KCBS just chose to leave those things out; they took a little bit of information, talked to the so-called experts until they got the answers they wanted, and turned it into a headline story," said Lora LaMarka, a spokeswoman for the zoo.

In the report, the radio stated that zoo records show that Tatiana arrived in San Francisco in December 2005 weighing 292 pounds based on zoo records. The tiger was entering the prime of her life at two and a half years when she was shot by the police during the fatal mauling in December 2007. She weighed 242 pounds when she was killed, according to the radio investigation.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, zoo officials called the report that Tatiana was underfed at the time of her death, and not cared for properly "incredibly disappointing."

Dr. Jacqueline Jencek, chief veterinarian, stated that the tiger's behavior and weight were in line with that of a Siberian tiger of her age. She had adequate fat stores at autopsy. An animal that is chronically underfed would not have these fat stores as she did and every animal diet is adjusted accordingly based on each individual animal's needs, according to Jensek.

"The animal keepers and veterinary caretakers at the San Francisco Zoo pamper and love these animals, as if they were a member of their own family," the zoo statement said.

Teenager Carlos Sousa was visiting the zoo on Christmas Day when the tiger escaped from her enclosure. When the mauling occurred Sousa was with his brother Kulbir, 23, and a friend Paul Dhaliwal, 19.

A toxicology report released in June, revealed that the fatally mauled teenager tested positive for marijuana and alcohol.

Tatiana's autopsy found that her hind claws were frayed, suggesting she escaped by climbing over the wall of her enclosure to reach the three young men. There were allegations that the trio taunted and provoked the tiger, but the San Francisco investigation did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

This incident, however, revealed that the wall of the tiger's enclosure was four feet shorter than the required industry standard and the zoo since than has spent $1.7 million on renovations to beef up its safety.

The fence now stands at 16.4 feet, as a contrast to the 12 feet it stood at when the deadly attack occurred.

Another accident that involved Tatiana occurred one year earlier. On Dec. 22, 2006, former zookeeper Lori Komejan had been clawed and bitten by the tiger during a feeding and suffered serious injuries. She never returned to work and filed a lawsuit.

Both the Sousa family and Dhaliwal family have filed claims against the City of San Francisco. The City has denied those claims, setting the stage for a long and protracted lawsuit.