Friday, 28 December 2007

Tiger Tales

The Tiger enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo in January 1959.

Tiger Tales
(an aside)

This has nothing to do with Kuranda but you might find it interesting regarding a current news item.

In 1959 I was 17 years old. The recently formed San Francisco Zoological Society contracted to do a television program on the “educational TV station” KQED Channel 9. I was a member of the Student Section of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and was selected to join the San Francisco Zoo Director, Carey Baldwin, to do the show. I acted as his student asking questions and helping with the livestock that was taken to the studio each week. The program lasted for two seasons. I lived only a few blocks from the zoo and Mr. Baldwin and I became very good friends. He was most entertaining and I could regale you with many stories. One immediately came to mind when I heard about the recent tiger incident at the San Francisco Zoo. One evening Mr. Baldwin invited me over to his house after dinner to see if "we had a problem with a tiger". I forget the tiger's name but Mr. Baldwin had been told by one of the zookeepers that the tiger might be able to escape by jumping across the moat and onto the flowerbed between the public guard rail and the moat. We got a large piece of meat and tied it to a long bamboo pole and approached the tiger enclosure. We were at the other end of the bamboo pole--about 15 ft away from the meat. Mr. Baldwin held the pole at the edge of our side of the moat. Once the tiger saw it, he literally flew across the moat from his position on the other side, grabbed the meat, and sprung back to the grotto all in one graceful movement. It happened so quickly that it was hard to believe what we had seen. Immediately we got into Mr. Baldwin's car, drove around to the other side of the enclosures, and entered the Lion House where we coaxed Mr. Tiger into its indoor holding cage. Then Mr. Baldwin closed the tiger's access to the outside--supposedly forever. Notes were left to the zookeepers to never let this tiger outside again.


Persiaida said...

If zookeepers are aware that tigers have potential to leap across moats why do they not tell everyone to make sure it never happens? How come stories like this are never public information?

Joe B said...

I have been a regular visitor and member of the SF Zoo for decades. I cannot comprehend that nothing was done about the tiger enclosures if stories like this are out there. Did you read the article in todays (San Francisco Chronicle online)? This is outrageous! Mr. Manuel Mollinedo, the current zoo director should be relieved of his duties!

Joe B said...

The lion/tiger enclosures at the SF Zoo are 70 years old, why has it taken so long to replace them. The Zoo just spent a few million dollars upgrading the main entrance and gift shop; Where are the priorities here?

g_chaplin said...

Anyone who had (or has) knowledge of a potentially lethal peril to humans or to animals held in captivity, and FAILS to reveal that knowledge in a manner which would rectify the hazard -- is GUILTY of contributory NEGLIGENCE! In the Christmas Day 2007 killing of a human being and our tigress Tatiana at the San Francisco Zoo, there are apparently a number of people all over the world who share in responsibility for this crime. SHAME on all of you! Blame the current Zoo director, who may or may not have had sufficient knowledge, but blame all of those who KNEW and did nothing! For decades!

stevesadlov said...

David please ignore my post on a more recent thread. I see you are well aware of the serious issues currently confronting the SF Zoo. As I mentioned there, your expertise looks like it would be highly valuable. The situation has taken a real turn due to the following red herring. The 3 mauling victims are said to have been "taunting the tiger" - namely, standing in the landscaped area between the short fence on the "humans" side of the grotto lip and the lip itself. They are street toughs and were found to be high when the incident occurred. This has allowed the zoo and the City to divert attention from the real issue at hand. The public are now frothing and angry at the young toughs and seem oblivious to the facts of the poor grotto design, combined with another tiger which should have never been allowed back into the grotto again, after an aggressive attack on a keeper back in Dec 2006. I fear that in all of this, the long known deficiencies will be forgotten.

John Whitson said...

Dr. Rentz, I am a private investigator assisting the attorney who represents the family of the young man killed by the tiger (Sousa). I would very much like to speak with you regarding your experience. Please contact me at

Thank you.