Big cats return to public view in renovated San Francisco Zoo grottoes

It was back to normal Thursday morning outside the big-cat grotto at the San Francisco Zoo, where parents and children greeted their old friends for the first time since a Christmas Day tiger attack left a San Jose teenager dead…The big cats had been kept inside since Tatiana the tiger somehow escaped and attacked the teen and two of his friends.

Fans of Tony the tiger, Tatiana’s former companion, Kimani the lion and all the others had counted the days until they could visit them in their outdoor playgrounds again. A heavy downpour for much of the day kept the number of visitors to a few at a time – there were 220 throughout the day. Many seemed to approve of the changes.

“I never felt myself or my kids were in danger,” Drivon said. “I always felt safe here, but I think what they’ve done is great. More zoos should take the precautions.”

It is still unknown how Tatiana got out of one of the grottoes before police shot her dead. Two days after the Christmas attack, the zoo announced the front wall around Tatiana’s enclosure was 4 feet lower than industry standards. Attorneys for Carlos Sousa Jr.,
who was killed in the attack, and brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, who were injured, blame the zoo; the zoo contends the three friends provoked the tiger. Police suspended their investigation without any charges, and no lawsuits have been filed. To prevent an escape of a big cat in the future, the zoo extended the concrete moat walls of the grottoes 4 feet to meet the national guidelines of 16 feet, 4 inches. A glass wall and fencing was placed on top of that to extend the barriers to 19 feet, and hot wires run along the moat wall.

“That will make sure they don’t even think about getting out,” said Bob Jenkins, director of animal care and conservation at the zoo.

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