Headline of the day, killer tiger edition

Headline of the day:

Zoo Director Says Tiger Wall Was Low

I think that would be hard to dispute at this point.

As background, a Siberian tiger escaped from its containment area and tragically killed one person and mauled two others at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas day.

Stunned zoo officials and tiger experts have been speculating that someone must have helped the tiger escape. Or perhaps not…

The director of the zoo where a teenager was killed by an escaped tiger acknowledged Thursday that the wall around the animal’s pen was just 12 1/2 feet high — well below the height recommended by the accrediting agency for the nation’s zoos.

San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo also admitted that it was becoming increasingly clear the 350-pound Siberian tiger leaped or climbed out of its open-air enclosure, perhaps by grabbing onto a ledge.

”She had to have jumped,” he said. ”How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me.” Mollinedo said investigators have ruled out the theory the tiger escaped through a door behind the exhibit.

Here’s where you start to get really impressed by the tiger:

According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the walls around a tiger exhibit should be at least 16.4 feet high. But Mollinedo said the nearly 70-year-old wall was 12 feet, 5 inches, with what he described as a ”moat” 33 feet across.

Even if the wall wasn’t up to code, leaping 33 feet horizontally and then over 12 feet vertically — perhaps all in one motion? — is pretty impressive.

[Mollinedo] said safety inspectors had examined the 1940 wall and never raised any red flags about its size.

”When the AZA came out and inspected our zoo three years ago, they never noted that as a deficiency,” he said. ”Obviously now that something’s happened, we’re going to be revisiting the actual height.”

Good idea!

Mollinedo said the ”moat” contained no water, and has never had any. He did not address whether that affected the tiger’s ability to get out.

Interesting. The implication here is: had the tiger been able to walk on water, it would have been able to escape much more quickly, had there been water in the moat. Or something.

On Wednesday, the zoo director said the wall was 18 feet high and the moat 20 feet wide. Based on the earlier, incorrect height estimate, animal experts had expressed disbelief that a tiger in captivity could have made such a spectacular leap.

What’s 5 1/2 feet of vertical containment between friends?

”I think it could be feasible for a cat that has been taunted or angered,” [Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo, said]. ”I don’t think it would ever just do it to do it. Somebody had to have provoked it.”

Interesting theory! Let’s see, is there any evidence of that…

The San Francisco Chronicle, citing anonymous sources, reported Thursday that police are looking into the possibility that the victims had taunted the tiger and dangled a leg or other body part over the edge of the moat. The newspaper said police had found a shoe and blood inside the enclosure.

Oh my.

All over the world, people are springing into action:

At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio, Assistant Director Don Winstel said he checked the architectural drawings and plans for the enclosure on Wednesday, and found that the walls and fence around the tigers are no lower than 16 feet.

But ”now that you mention it, I think I’ll take a tape measure out there tomorrow and make sure,” he said.

Meanwhile, I think someone has a great chance as a future career as an official at a bond rating agency like Moody’s or S&P!

AZA spokesman Steven Feldman said the minimum height is just a guideline and that a zoo could still be deemed safe even if its wall were lower.

Accreditation standards require ”that the barriers be adequate to keep the animals and people apart from each other,” Feldman said. ”Obviously something happened to cause that not to be the case in this incident.”