Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Lady, Or The Tiger? Legal Question: Who attacked whom?

At closing time, there were no official witnesses to the fatal confrontation between three boys and an enraged tigress they provoked with sticks and pine cones

San Francisco – Tatiana's final instinctive predatory path displayed very unusual behavior for a Siberian tiger.

The species almost never leaves a fresh kill, but in this case, the animal left a dead, bleeding teenaged human male on the ground and followed a 300-yard spoor trail to an outdoor dining terrace at the city's zoo.

There, she attacked two bleeding brothers who cowered in fear after had been injured in the initial skirmish and escaped to their hiding place.

Though inspectors struck the remark from the record as irrelevant, Laurie Gage, a tiger expert who investigated the bizarre case for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), said “With my knowledge of tiger behavior I cannot imagine a tiger trying to jump out of its enclosure unless it was provoked.”

Ms. Gage found some evidence the three boys had provoked Tatiana.

In an area overlooking a moat that separates the tiger habitat from visitors, there were some sticks that did not come from the shrubbery planted there. She also found at least one pine cone inside Tatiana's living area.

Tatiana's escape was a spectacular leap.

The tigress left claw marks in the asphalt and pieces of her nails embedded in the pavement where she jumped from the bottom of the moat and gained enough leverage on the wall to leap over the top of the waist-high enclosure fence and a hedge.

It is the first time in 65 years that a tiger has escaped from the exhibit.

Tatiana killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa, Jr., left his body at the kill site, passed up wart hogs and other animals she could have easily attacked and killed, and followed two brothers, Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, who retreated after she killed young Sousa.

The brothers had accompanied Mr. Sousa to the zoo that afternoon.

"After a kill, I find it interesting the tiger would leave a kill to go after something else unless there were a compelling reason," Ms. Gage wrote.
APHIS is the federal agency which oversees the management of the nation's zoos and their treatment of wild animals.

Police emptied their department-issued sidearms into Tatiana's inert body when they arrived to find her savaging a helpless boy who lay unconscious, unable to escape or defend himself. The other youth sat injured,bleeding, confused and dazed, as she shielded his body from the police officer's weapons with hers.

Ms. Gage quoted the police report, which noted that they got the impression Tatiana was protecting her prey from their possible aggression or interference.

When they got a clear field of fire, they subdued the enraged animal after she turned to approach them. One officer stated that he delivered the coup de grace after she was down and inert, firing point blank into her head.

The government fined the zoo management $1,875 for its failure to maintain a safe enclosure from which a tiger may not escape. The city admitted it should have provided safer habitat.

An attorney representing the parents of the “victim,” Mr. Sousa, called the provocation theory “mere speculation.”

"Keep in mind these are animals, who knows why they do anything?" said Michael Cardoza.

The Associate Press waited three years to obtain a copy of Ms. Gage's report after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. She drafted a recital of her findings in 2007, the year of what has for three years been referred to as an inexplicable “attack” by an enraged tigress.

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