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.