When bad organizations attack

This is an Amur (Siberian) tiger. (“Do not even think of pulling its tail”– Douglas Adams)

In the aftermath of the deadly tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo over the Christmas holiday, I was wondering if we’d hear reassurances from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo about the safety of their Amur tiger exhibit. I haven’t visited the zoo for a couple of years, but I recall their exhibit was inherently safer than what I was seeing about the SF Zoo’s exhibit, although I was surprised at how close you could get to the tigers, even behind a window (and there’s a lot of faith being expressed in the power of chain-link to stand up to 600-lb animals, I must say). I also seem to remember that the tiger exhibit is on a steep slope and that there isn’t much room for the tigers to do anything up by the windows except sun themselves on a rock. I don’t know where the tigers get fed, but I hope it is not in front of the public. (I’m not a zoo professional but I think that’s an awful idea – why would you want dangerous predators to associate bystanders with dinner?) I also liked the “scenario” on the path leading up to the exhibit, that there were dangerous poachers in the area and that maybe the tigers were hiding from them. I don’t think you should force zoo animals to be on view all the time.

If you’re middle-aged you probably remember the bad old days of the Burnet Park Zoo before the zoo’s makeover. The SF Zoo is in serious need of upgrades. And not just of facilities, but maybe of philosophy: I mean, part of their big cat exhibit involves the animals coming out into indoor wire mesh feeding chutes in front of gawking crowds; that’s kind of embarrassing. But the news stories coming out of SF are revealing an organization that is in a lot of disarray and you have to wonder if a major disaster like this was almost inevitable. Everyone’s an instant expert on zoos when something bad happens (like the fatal elephant calf accident at the Gifford Zoo recently). However, bad organizations give off a certain vibe that is unmistakable. In other words, “this was no accident.” Why it takes a disaster to get people to speak up is beyond me.

2 thoughts on “When bad organizations attack

  1. Patrick

    My guess is that a lot of zoos around the country are taking a good look at their exhibits or will be. The latest that has been coming out on the tiger story is that the wall was much lower than it should have been and it will be interesting to see how and why the exhibit passed inspection to begin with.

    I haven’t been to the Rosamond Gifford zoo in several years but my last memory of it was the lion exhibit. At that time you walked through a door into a tunnel like or long hallway which was surrounded by what I would guess was some very thick Plexiglas. For whatever reason when myself and my kids who were smaller at the time walked through one of the lionesses was running and banging into the glass at almost full speed and bouncing off it. Most if not all of the people that would open the door to see the lions would either close it and not go in or walk through the area very fast once they saw what the tiger was doing myself included. How the Plexiglas or whatever it was didn’t give way beats me and none of us were going to stick around to see if it would. I did end up running into a zoo worker and mentioned it to them and they did say they would look into calming the animal down.

  2. Mrs. Mecomber

    I remember the Burnet Park Zoo. I am aghast at the suggestion that I may be middle-aged. :O

    I recently visited the Utica Zoo, and posted at the tiger cage was a sign reassuring visitors that the tigers could not escape. I wasn’t worried but it was a nice gesture.

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