Everyone in San Francisco who had ever been to the zoo was shaken to learn that, on Christmas Eve, a tiger had escaped, killed one man, and savaged two others. The tiger had to be shot, to the horror of animal rights activists. In the beginning, no one knew what had happened, which was rather strange, considering that there were two survivors. Equally strange was the fact that there were no video cameras, which is a rarity in a facility opened to the public. The zoo director claimed that the victims must have taunted the animal into a frenzy in some way, only to be embarrassed out of that statement when it turned out that the barrier in the tiger’s grotto was too low. In the last couple of days, though, a couple of other stories have emerged that lend credence to the zoo director’s first impulsive statement. First, a witness has stated that she saw the victims screaming at and bullying the tiger. One could speculate, of course, that a lone victim is either inaccurate or, for self-aggrandizement, false. However, today, there was yet another story showing that the victims might have triggered the attack:
Soon after their 17-year-old friend was mauled to death by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, the two brothers who survived the attack made a quick pact not to cooperate with the police as they rode in an ambulance to the hospital, sources told The Chronicle.
“Don’t tell them what we did,” paramedics heard 23-year-old Kulbir Dhaliwal tell his brother, Paul, 19.
Sources also say that the younger brother was intoxicated at the time of the incident, having used marijuana and consumed enough liquor to have a blood-alcohol level above the .08 limit for adult drivers. The older brother also had been drinking and using marijuana around the time a 350-pound Siberian tiger escaped and killed Carlos Sousa Jr., the sources said.
The brothers’ initial refusal to cooperate has frustrated authorities in the days after the Christmas Day attack as investigators attempt to find out what might have precipitated it.
On Friday, the San Francisco city attorney fired off a letter to the brothers’ attorney, saying that the San Jose men have refused to let police see any photos or calls they might have made using their cell phones.
Although the police still possess the cell phones and have impounded the brothers’ car, city attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey said that without the Dhaliwals’ permission, police cannot legally search the items as potential evidence. Among the items police say they have spotted in the car is an empty vodka bottle.
The Zoo is certainly not off the hook. The fact that these men may have been bullies, boors, and liars does not excuse the Zoo for having a wall that was well within a tiger’s ability to scale. The surviving brothers also claim that Zoo works were slow to help them, a claim given credence by the fact that the Zoo workers were reluctant to let the police enter and forced them to go into a side entrance rather than through a more direct
root route (which leaves one wondering why the police, responding to a 911 call, acceded to that demand).
Something good may have come of all this, though, which is the revelation that the Zoo has other safety problems. Considering the thousands of children who pass through that Zoo weekly, that information needs to be exposed and the problems fixed.