Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scary and sad--captivity doesn't take the wild out of animals per se

Escaped tiger kills man at S.F. Zoo

Tatiana, a Siberian tiger, somehow got out of her enclosure, mauled a man to death and injured two others before being shot as she charged police officers. The same tiger injured a zookeeper last year. This time those mauled were not zoo employees, although details of their identities were withheld at the time of the story.

We sometimes like to think we tame nature, but that's not really true, is it?

PS I read one of the follow-up stories and the comments were, well, just plain stupid for the most part. They were very anti-zoo. They go on about how this animal should be out running free. Well, yes, in an ideal world, it should. But people don't get that tigers in the wild are quickly becoming extinct. There are more tigers in captivity--many of them bred there--than in the wild, by a factor of 2:1 by some reports. In the wild their environment is shrinking and they are being poached. To properly educate people about this crisis, zoos help people see the beauty and majesty of these creatures. Animals are housed in very different conditions than they once were, providing for better mental and physical health. One woman (I presume it was a woman from the screen name and frankly, the sentimentality) wrote that the animal was obviously unhappy with 'his' living conditions (a lot of the commentators totally missed that Tatiana was a female) and that's why the man was killed and the others mauled. No, Tatiana was a wild animal who saw an opportunity to range further than the confines of her traditional environment. She was already both desensitised to humans (having been around them so much) yet aggressive with them (the mauling last year proves that). Every tiger, like other animals, has his or her own personality. History is full of regular tigers and mankillers, even in their native habitat. Some turn on humans rather than other prey (and those in the wild are usually hunted down and killed, as there is a belief--rather true or not--that once a tiger kills, he or she will continue to do so.)

I love animals, but if I found a tiger mauling a person to death, you better believe I'd shoot it dead, if I had no tranquilizer gun--and I'm not sure a tranq gun would work during a mauling anyway, as it takes some time to have an effect on a 350-lb beast--a lot can happen in even a few seconds. The police acted as they did to save a life, but they're coming under fire by these people who are like 'why did you have to kill it?' Because she was charging them, for one.

I absolutely agree with the comments that Jack Hanna made in the article/video that I linked to in this post-script. Zoos are some of the safest places in the world; he said he'd worry about getting in a car long before worrying about something like this happening in a zoo. He also pointed out that a wild animal is like a loaded gun--it's dangerous and could just go off.

There will be an investigation to see what failures happened in this case, and hopefully improvements can be made. I'm sorry Tatiana is dead, but I think it is for the best. My thoughts are also with the victims in this, who were enjoying a holiday outing at the zoo. But this story also tells me that there are people out there who are out of touch with reality, preferring to think of tigers as some cute cuddly thing than the dangerous, powerful animals they are. Maybe zoos do tend to make us think that captive animals are docile, and these sorts of things help underscore the stupidity in that thought. Any wild animal is dangerous (I learnt that when I tried to help an injured squirrel--can't imagine that incident magnified by several hundred pounds). People need to respect them as well as work for their continued existence.

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