Tiger exhibit reopens after fatal mauling

February 21, 2008 5:41:42 PM PST
The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo reopened Thursday for the first time since a tiger escaped and fatally mauled a teen two months ago. "They are such beautiful animals," marveled zoo member Breanne King, who brought her two daughters to see the animals.

King said she's made one other zoo visit since the Christmas Day attack and wanted to see the new safety measures made since then to prevent another animal escape.

"I wanted to check it out and see if it's as safe as they said it was," she said.

King said her eldest, 10-year-old Kristina, still has questions about the tiger attack.

"Why did Tatiana kill somebody?" the girl asked. "She didn't mean to," her mother replied.

The open-air grotto for the big cats now has higher walls, glass barriers and electrified wires, plus warning signs and surveillance cameras were added around the exhibit.

Ever since the 250-pound Siberian tiger escaped, her mate Tony, two lions and a Sumatran tiger have been kept indoors so the exhibit could be upgraded.

Before the improvements, the walls were about 4 feet lower than recommended. The grotto now has 19-foot barriers -- about 3 feet higher than the Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommends.

The accreditation organization is scheduled to meet with zoo officials in two weeks to report on the changes, said Robert Jenkins, the zoo's director of animal care.

While the animals were indoors, they were kept stimulated with scented balls and nature films.

Jenkins said the animals seem to be responding well to their new digs and could move between the outdoor exhibit and their indoor enclosures as they pleased.

"They have no fear of coming back out, no signs of stress. The whole treatment program and management process while they were inside worked," he said.

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