September 12, 2009

A zoo tiger leapt over a 16' fence and mauled a man to death.

It happened in Hanoi.

Are you surprised? Consider this:
[Zoo] animals do not escape to somewhere but from something. Something within their territory has frightened them ... and set off a flight reaction. The animal flees, or tries to. I was surprised to read at the Toronto Zoo ... that leopards can jump up to eighteen feet straight up. Our leopard enclosure in Pondicherry was sixteen feet high at the back. I surmise that Rosie and Copycat never jumped out was not because of constitutional weakness but simply because they had no reason to. Animals that escape go from the known to the unknown--and if there is one thing an animal hates above all else, it is the unknown.
That's a passage many will recognize, from "The Life of Pi." I copied it out once before, in a post called "Jabari was wronged," about a gorilla who managed to climb the 15' concave wall of his enclosure.

Jabari — who was shot to death — had been taunted. Who knows what moved the tiger?

36 comments:

MayBee said...

I am of the opinion that when you go to a zoo in an undeveloped country, you are pretty much taking your life in your own hands.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

The chilling thing is, sometimes the caged animal dresses up in camo fatigues, crashes his Ford pickup into a McDonald’s, and then starts shooting people.

TerriW said...

It doesn't have to even be an undeveloped country.

The scariest thing I've ever seen was at the Austin Zoo in Texas. We lived about 2 miles down the road from it, and went there often -- it was a pretty ragtag sort of zoo, not a high budget affair, and it was mostly rescue animals.

So, I'm at the tiger cage with my then-toddler, and I see that the tiger is *fixated* on this little boy, about 4 years old. It does not take its eyes off the child, even for a second, and paces back and forth in front of him behind the fence. I've never felt such, well, menacing *intent* from an animal before. His mom and her friends think it is funny, and are laughing. I think it is positively frightening, grab my child and head back to the car to go home immediately. I never went back.

I keep thinking that some day I'm going to read a story like this about the Austin Zoo.

TerriW said...

(Before I sound *too* much like a typical panicky young mom, let me just say that the fence wasn't all that high, and there were trees with limbs that the tigers would climb up not too far from the fence.)

SteveR said...

As Chris Rock said, the Tiger didn't go crazy, the tiger went tiger.

WV: humble

Fred4Pres said...

Well, given Hanoi is within tiger habitat, that might make a difference. Like a bear escaping from some American roadside attraction.

When is that Life of Pi movie coming out anyway?

Fred4Pres said...

TeriW, you are not crazy. Preditors are naturally drawn to children. They are tastier than older people. You still have your Darwinian wits about you. Some do not.

miller said...

"Animals behind bars sure are fun to tease."

Yeah. But maybe those bars don't look like bars to the animals. Maybe they look like a simple challenge.

We have a wildlife preserve in the area with (I think) cheetahs or leopards. When people visit with their small kids, the cats follow the small kids with their eyes.

Their eyes. Their eyes. Always (for now) the eyes.

People do laugh and think it's cute. You have to wonder if they are setting themselves up as winners of the Darwin awards.

rdkraus said...

Tigers

My favorite animals.

The epitome of grace and power together.

former law student said...

first Althouse, then MayBee:

"A zoo tiger leapt over a 16' fence and mauled a man to death."

I am of the opinion that when you go to a zoo in an undeveloped country, you are pretty much taking your life in your own hands.

In the undeveloped country of California, a tiger in the SF Zoo escaped and killed a young man, injuring his two friends. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recommends a 16.4 foot enclosure (five meters) but the zoo had only 12.5 feet of fence.

I doubt that the additional five inches of fence would have made the difference; I think the AZA needs to rethink their recommendation.

traditionalguy said...

Is this another story about a Democrat Representative at a Townhall meeting finding a way to escape from answering questions? I hear that the latest T-Shirts for wearing to these meetings have printed on them in large block letters. "ANGRY MOB"

Laura(southernxyl) said...

So, I'm at the tiger cage with my then-toddler, and I see that the tiger is *fixated* on this little boy, about 4 years old. It does not take its eyes off the child, even for a second, and paces back and forth in front of him behind the fence. I've never felt such, well, menacing *intent* from an animal before.

I have seen this, at the Memphis zoo, where there was absolutely no way the tiger could have gotten to the child; and it still raised the hair on my neck. Darwin, yes.

Shanna said...

Remind me to check the specs on the Little Rock zoo. Creepy.

MayBee said...

fls-

I remember the SF incident well.
Yes, a poorly built zoo enclosure will not enclose an animal.

But I'm still more wary the more undeveloped the country. When there isn't enough money for the people to be fed, is there enough money to make sure the animals are being fed?

BJM said...

I loath zoos and caged birds, they give me the creeps.

EDH said...

I wish I could find active video of a gorilla escape from a Boston Zoo in 2003.

"Little Joe," a 5-foot, 300-pound adolescent gorilla born in captivity, escaped from the Franklin Park Zoo minutes before closing time. It also had also escaped from its section of the Tropical Forest exhibit in August...

Zoo officials installed electrified wires to keep the 11-year-old primate from escaping again, but this time he managed to get off zoo grounds entirely.

The scene outside the zoo was frightening as the gorilla eluded officers after scaling a 10-foot-wide, 12-foot-deep moat and getting past electric wire that was erected around his exhibit. He got out of his enclosure just before the zoo was scheduled to close at 6 p.m. EDT.

Little Joe was spotted about two hours later sitting at a bus stop near the zoo.

Police swarmed local streets, trying to corner the primate, which seemed oblivious to all the commotion he was causing as he drank from a discarded soda bottle and scavenged for food.


Anthropomorphically, the image was quite amusing. But a media scandal errupted when a Boston sports talk DJ made an unfortunate comparison to "inner-city students who use a voluntary busing program known as Metco."

AprilApple said...

Big cats do not belong behind bars. They like to roam.

I am saddened when I see big cats at zoos. It's cruel.

rhhardin said...

Turkey vultures watch kids playing, hoping one will die.

ricpic said...

...if there is one thing an animal hates above all else it is the unknown.

Compared to humans, who hate both the unknown and the known, animals have it easy.

AllenS said...

Jabari was called a pussy, every single day of his life. He finally said: "ENOUGH"!!

PatCA said...

I enjoyed Life of Pi. He had some interesting things to about nature and animals. One woman quite the Book Club over the book--it was too prejudiced in favor of humans, in her opinion.

bearbee said...

How'd ya like to spent your whole existence in a concrete bunker the size of your 2 car garage?

TerriW said...

Ha -- I just realized I have a Vietnamese zoo story, too. Though not the same zoo, I never made it up to Hanoi -- I think mine was in Da Lat? -- but, anywho, this was about 20 years ago and there I was at this Vietnamese zoo at the monkey cage.

The monkey stole my glasses. He struck quick like a viper, I didn't even see it coming. It took some time to get them back -- and I cannot see without my glasses, I desperately needed them back. I eventually was able to trade him a piece of gum with a nice shiny silver wrapper for them.

He'd obviously done it before. They really should have had a man with a rolling banana stand waiting behind a corner to come by and sell bananas to the hapless tourists.

So my other zoo lesson that I can pass along -- stay out of arm's reach of monkeys, and do not forget that monkeys have very long arms.

Joan said...

TerriW's story puts me in mind of all the "first contact" science fiction stories I've read, about all the difficulties humanity encounters when it finally stumbles across a "truly alien intelligence." Of course the story turns around the point that it has never happened before.

The unique angle idea is garbage. No matter how much we anthropomorphize, monkeys and tigers (and dolphins and gorillas, among others) are alien intelligences. They may not be as intelligent as we are, but they certainly don't think the way we do. It's obviously to our detriment to believe that they do, or to believe that we can understand their thinking.

former law student said...

How'd ya like to spent your whole existence in a concrete bunker the size of your 2 car garage

I'd call it luxurious. For decades I spent more than half my waking life in a 6' x 6' cubicle.

Methadras said...

Zoos should be shut down all over the world. They are useless and it's stories like this that convince me even more that they are useless because morons are mere feet away from and don't know how to behave themselves or interact with these types of animals while they munch on their goodies. Besides, they all smell like shit. Zoology and Biology need to be conducted in the field in the habit, not behind the cloistered backdrops of enclosures.

traditionalguy said...

You have to love Tigers for their aggression and skills at catching their pray. What ever happened to the Saber Toothed Breed? Can you get away with giving one to a secret enemy as a gift, and tell him that it is a trained and harmless pet? I bet President Obama could convince his secret enemies of that.

daubiere said...

If a lion could speak, we would not understand him.

Big Mike said...

Had we but known. Instead of dropping 500 lb bombs from B52 bombers we could have won the war by parachuting in a bunch of hungry tigers.

Fred4Pres said...

Methadras said...
Zoos should be shut down all over the world...


Sadly no. Tigers will soon exist only in zoos and zoo like protected "parks." Until we can reach a day when such animals can be restored to their own habitat, zoos play an important role.

As for circuses, if I were a tiger I would prefer show business to the bordom of zoos. At least you have the activity of learning new tricks, exercise and interaction. And you can rarely get to bite your trainer in the neck and not get punished for it. Win win.

Fred4Pres said...

The best animal trainers attempt to think like their trainee animal. And of course behaviors vary greatly between different species. They also vary greatly individual to individual. Alien intelligences, yeah to a point, but animals have personalities, nerosis and all the similar attributes and complications that people do.

Cedarford said...

" Methadras said...
Zoos should be shut down all over the world. They are useless and it's stories like this that convince me even more that they are useless because morons are mere feet away from and don't know how to behave themselves or interact with these types of animals while they munch on their goodies. Besides, they all smell like shit.
Zoology and Biology need to be conducted in the field in the habit, not behind the cloistered backdrops of enclosures."


Bad idea.

I know PETA and animal lovers make certain points, but zoos, and for that matter managed wildlife preserves like the National Park Systems of various nations make sense.

1. As mankind has exploded in the last 100 years from 1.2 billion to 6.8 billion - only parks protected by armed rangers offer sanctuary from landless peasants wanting land for crops and poachers.
To keep these parks viable and supported..they must return Value to the people of a nation.

2. If only advanced degreed people in Biology and Zoology, etc... were allowed to see animals in limited access wilderness preserves...how would you imprint on 98% of the rest of humanity that preserving wildlife and maintaining "wild, natural parts" of any nation are a precious part of our heritage and to preserving the diversity of life??
If you talk to a committed natural preservationist, your average animal lover chances are they will say they were "imprinted" early on by trips to zoos and to National Park systems in their nations and by TV shows like "The Crocodile Hunter"
Or they were hunters and fishers who were like the hunters and fishers and birders who set up much of nation's wildlife preserves in the 1st place.

3. Zoos (and "plant" centers) are now critical genetic reserviors for species extinct in the wild or threatened with extinction.

Peter Dickinson said...

I have worked in zoos for more than 40 years and presently work as a zoo consultant as well as publishing the longest established zoo related ezine on the internet. More recently I have added a blog. I am pro-zoo...pro GOOD zoo. I have traveled extensively in Asia including Dai Nam (where this incident took place...before it opened). My contribution to this discussion is to wonder exactly what did happen? I read all the press reports. There were too many contradictions. I don't know what the policy is on this blog but if I could point you to my report on the incident at: http://moourl.com/h5env

amba said...

Nit pick: no "The" in title, just "Life of Pi."

I love that book a lot.

Americas Best Zoos author said...

This is NOT a reflection on American zoos! Our zoos learned their lesson in San Francisco. All of our tiger exhibits are safe. Can't say this for Third World communist zoos, though.

Allen Nyhuis, Coauthor: America's Best Zoos