Zoo Probes Deadly Tiger Mauling

Medical examiner identifies teenager killed by tiger that also mauled 2 others.

ByABC News via logo
February 9, 2009, 10:54 AM

Dec. 26, 2007 — -- The identity of a boy who was killed Christmas Day when an escapted tiger mauled him at a California zoo was revealed late this afternoon.

Seventeen-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr., of San Jose, Calif., was the only fatality when 350-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana managed to escape its cage. Two other men were injured and in an press conference earlier today, police said they were treating the San Francisco Zoo, as crime scene until they can gather more information. California authorities said they will continue their probe into the Christmas Day tiger attack.

Two survivors attacked by a tiger Christmas Day remained in stable condition today.

San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina, who was on scene at the zoo last night , told television outlet KGO the three men had gone to the zoo together.

Investigators tried to determine how the animal escaped its enclosure and roamed the grounds of the zoo.

The men were listed previously as in critical but stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital after the attack by a 350-pound Siberian tiger named Tatiana.

"They're doing well at the present time. They have both gone through their surgeries well. They're both in stable condition," Dr. John Brown of San Francisco General Hospital told "Good Morning America" today.

"These injuries are severe injuries, but they are very treatable," Brown added. "These two gentlemen seem to be in good health. So I think they have a good chance."

While authorities remain unsure of how the tiger escaped, it is clear that somehow the animal traveled over over a 20-foot wall and a 15-foot moat. Initially, authorities worried four of the zoo's five tigers had escaped. Later they learned Tatiana was the only one loose.

Police are unsure how long the tiger roamed free at the zoo, which is open 365 days a year. Between 20 and 25 people were on site when the attacks happened, according to The Associated Press. Employees and visitors were told to take shelter when zoo officials learned of the attacks.

No employees were harmed, according to San Francisco Fire Department Lt. Ken Smith.

When police arrived, they found Tatiana sitting beside one of the surviving victims near the zoo's cafe. When it moved toward officers, they opened fire and killed the tiger.

"As that tiger was attacking someone they shot that tiger to save that person's life," Smith said.

At least one of the survivors was able to speak about his injuries. He expressed his fear, but gratefulness about receiving aid.

"He was pretty composed. He was able to describe that he was attacked by a tiger and he was able to describe in detail where his injuries were and he was able to cooperate fully with our examination," Brown said. "We were focused primarily on trying to determine how badly injured he was. So we didn't ask for much details at the scene. But he was conscious and able to tell us what had happened."

The event marked the second time Tatiana had mauled someone. On Dec. 22, 2006, the tiger attacked a zoo keeper during a routine public feeding.

It reached through its cage, grabbed the zoo keeper and tore flesh off her arm. Later, a state agency faulted the zoo and ordered changes in the cage's construction, which had been made before the latest attack.

California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health blamed the zoo for the assault and imposed an $18,000 penalty. A medical claim filed against the city by the keeper was denied, the AP said.

The tragedy highlighted the dangers in dealing with wild animals in captivity, but animal expert Jack Hanna said people should not be afraid to visit a zoo.

"I'd be [more] worried about getting in a car," said Hanna, the director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. "A zoo is one of the safest places in the world to go to."

Hanna said on "GMA" today that about 99 percent of zoo animals have been born and raised in captivity, adding it is important to help keep the tigers and other animals from extinction.

"It's not like we're taking animals out of the world and putting them in the zoo," Hanna said. "San Francisco is a great zoo. These animals have the most phenomenal care."

Hanna acknowledged that people still have to be mindful the animals retain their natural instincts.

"A wild animal is like a loaded gun. It can go off at any time," said Hanna. "They are wild animals. They are very powerful animals."

"People have to understand," he said. "You can't do anything about this. That's there natural instinct."

The San Francisco attack is the latest in several high-profile incidents in recent years. In fact, several assaults have made headlines this month.

Earlier this month at a California animal sanctuary owned by actress Tippi Hedren, a tiger critically injured a 40-year-old worker when it repeatedly bit him.

Also, a tiger attack at an Indian zoo killed a 50-year-old man, after tearing off his left arm as he tried to take a photograph of the animal in its cage.

In November 2006 at Sea World, a killer whale attacked her trainer and pulled him underwater during a show.

But, tiger attacks aren't the only ones to reach the headlines. In 2004 a gorilla attacked a 3-year-old boy at a Dallas zoo, when it escaped from captivity and went on a rampage.

Even the most highly trained animals have attacked, like in October 2003 when Roy Horn, of the famed Siegfried and Roy duo, was attacked by a tiger during a Las Vegas show before a live audience.

The unprovoked tiger dragged Horn by the neck off stage, leaving him with massive blood loss and severe injuries.

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