Should we be surprised when a wild animal behaves like a wild animal and attacks when provoked?
That is the question we need to ask when we consider the role zoos play in our lives on a moral and ethical level and we need to begin to wonder if raising wild animals in captivity is beneficial to the animal or if that process is only a money-making proposition where animals are used as entertainment.
Tatiana, a Siberian tiger born in the Denver Zoo, was a beautiful being in 2003 when she was a cub.
In 2005 Tatiana moved to the San Francisco Zoo where she continued to be held captive and grew into a 350-pound tiger of wild grace:
On Christmas day, Tatiana attacked. She killed one person and injured two others before she was shot dead by responding police. The San Francisco Chronicle reports today there is evidence Tatiana was taunted by those she attacked:
San Francisco police are investigating the possibility that one of the victims in the fatal tiger mauling on Christmas Day climbed over a waist-high fence and then dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of a moat that kept the big cat away from the public, sources close to the investigation said Wednesday. The minimal evidence found at the scene included a shoe and blood in an area between the gate and the edge of the 25- to 30-foot-wide moat, raising questions about what role, if any, the victims might have had in accidentally helping the animal escape.
The three victims, all young men from San Jose, were visiting the zoo together. They were all present just outside the tiger’s grotto when the tiger escaped, killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. with a savage slash to the throat, and injured the other two. The names of the survivors, who are brothers ages 19 and 23, have not been released. The injured victims fled, leaving a trail of blood, which police believe the tiger followed for 300 yards up a zoo pathway. As the tiger cornered and attacked one of the brothers, four police officers arrived, distracted the animal and shot it dead.
Can we blame Tatiana for her death and the human deaths? Or must we blame the zoo entertainment system that took her wild life and required her imprisonment as a public performer?
In 2006, Tatiana provided hard evidence of her wild nature:
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.
Tatiana was not killed in 2006 because, as one zoo official suggested, she was acting as a tiger is expected to act.
“We don’t know if there was any intent (to harm) on the tiger’s part,” Jenkins said. He said that 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 Dec. 16, 2005. Jenkins said she has no history of aggression toward humans.
Zoos are terrible places if you think about their purpose and intent. They are not preserving life. They are destroying life. If you really want to help and protect animals, help them in their native habitat, not in a manmade replacement. You go travel visit the tiger in the wild. Don’t expect the tiger to sit and wait for you in a zoo. Your convenience creates the ongoing death of an animal’s wild will. We only need to look back to 2003 and Roy Horn’s mauling in the mouth of a tiger he trained to see there is a history and a behavior of action when people expect wild animals to act human:
The tiger lunged at Horn’s neck about half-way through the show, and dragged him off stage, audience members said. “He looked like a rag doll in his mouth,” said Kirk Baser, from Pennsylvania.
Zoos try to claim to preserve and protect animals, but if you’ve ever visited a zoo, you can see in the animals’ eyes they wish to be elsewhere and they yearn for the freedom you enjoy.
“For over 200 years tigers have been kept in captivity in European zoos and for over 100 years in American zoos,” Tilson said. “No tiger has ever escaped from its enclosure . . . except by human error.”
… Asked why the animal was not put down after she attacked a zookeeper last year in the tigers’ adjacent feeding area, Mollinedo said: “There was never consideration of putting Tatiana down. The tiger was acting like a normal tiger does.” … Tigers are regarded as among the most fearsome, instinctual hunters in the animal world. “Tigers are alpha predators. They kill and eat animals for food,” said Tilson, “including humans.”
Why do we cage tigers if not for our own, selfish, enjoyment? Why are we surprised when a taunted and provoked animal fights back? Was shooting Tatiana dead the only way to end the danger? Were no tranquilizer guns available? Tatiana never asked for her life or wanted her death. Who will weep for Tatiana?
I will weep for Tatiana.