San Francisco Zoo officials said the Association of Zoos and Aquariums would review its facilities and recommend immediate fixes, including possibly new fencing in front of the exhibits, surveillance cameras and hot wires around habitats following a deadly tiger mauling on Christmas day.
Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo said the AZA did not note any deficiencies in the tiger grotto in an afternoon press conference today.
Mollinedo acknowledged Thursday that the wall around the animal's enclosure was 12½ feet, and well below the height recommended by the main accrediting agency for the nation's zoos.
According to the AZA, the minimum recommended height for tiger exhibit walls is 16.4 feet, and Mollinedo said safety inspectors who examined the wall three years ago never raised red flags about its height.
This comes after Mollinedo said Wednesday that the wall was 18 feet high, and that the moat around the tiger's pen was 20 feet wide.
The zoo will remain closed tomorrow and police, who are investigating whether one of the three victims provoked the Siberian tiger to escape its enclosure, also said they obtained shoe prints from the front of the den where the attacks took place.
Forensics will allow us to determine if the shoes of the victims match the ones found at the scene, San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong said. "We also have all three pairs of shoes from the victims."
Fong dismissed earlier media reports that one of the men possibly dangled a leg or body part over the edge of the moat surrounding the animal's cage, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle today.
We have no information that someone's leg was leaning over the railing, she said.
Officially, police have said they have no reason to believe the tiger was provoked, but they said they are looking into whether the tiger had help escaping its enclosure, intentionally or accidentally.
"We are not certain whether it was a result of human action or whether the animal climbed out," said Fong. "We are deeming it a crime scene."
Fong said officers specifically were looking at two areas, the back of the grotto and the front, to determine how 350-pound Titana escaped.
"Every lock was in place ... there was no way that tiger could have escaped through the back area," Mollinedo said. "We believe the tiger escaped from the front, but don't know exactly where or how."
The tiger killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and severely injured two other men before police shot her to death.
Sousa's father, Carlos Sousa Sr., said on "Good Morning America" today that he didn't believe his son would provoke an animal.
"I don't think my son would do something like taunt an animal," he said. "It's unbelievable."
According to the Chronicle, the evidence includes a footprint found on a metal fence suggesting someone may have tried to get closer to the tiger. A shoe and blood also were reportedly found in the area of the moat and a bloody trail led from the animal's cage to about 300 yards away, where the two surviving victims, along with the tiger, were found.
The allegations that the victims may have provoked the tiger's wrath added to Sousa Sr.'s emotional heartbreak.
"Only God knows. Maybe those two boys know, but I haven't talked to them. But I can't say anything until I see the evidence," Sousa Sr. said.
The two survivors remain at San Francisco General Hospital in stable condition. Sousa Sr. said he did not know his son planned on visiting the zoo.
"I didn't know my son was going to go to the zoo. In fact, I thought he was at his friend's house," said Sousa Sr., who learned of his son's death when his mother called him. He called the authorities to confirm the victim's identity.
He questioned police about a specific jersey Sousa Jr. was wearing and when they confirmed the victim was wearing a No. 39 jersey, Sousa Sr. broke down.
"I saw a body bag and said, 'That's my son. I can't believe that's my son,'" he said. "I felt like I was being strangled. I felt like I was being choked. I felt like I lost part of my life."
No surveillance cameras cover the tiger's habitat, making the investigation more difficult.
"Something was done wrong over there. Something's not right," Sousa Sr. said. "I wish I could bring him back. I'll do anything. I'll give my life for him, if I could. I say, 'God take me. Why him?'"
Sousa Sr. remembered his son as a good kid, who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sousa Jr.'s Myspace page gives further insight into his life. He said he wanted to be a deejay and was about to start selling newspaper subscriptions this week.
"I don't think this deserves to happen to anybody taunting or not taunting. Animals need to be protected from the people and people need to be protected from the animals," Sousa Sr. said.