Life back to normal for tiger that mauled trainer

Pacing her pen, basking in the attention of thousands and brushing off the advances of her companion, life continues as normal for the tiger that mauled a trainer at the San Francisco Zoo last week.

A week after Tatiana, a 3-year-old Siberian tiger, lacerated her trainer’s arms after a public feeding demonstration, the rare, 350-pound beast lives as normal in her enclosure with her companion, Tony, a 14-year-old vasectomized male Siberian tiger.

Tatiana came to the zoo almost exactly a year ago as part of a national breeding program. She is being kept at the zoo as a companion for Tony until she is needed for breeding. On Wednesday, Bob Jenkins, the zoo’s director of animal care, said Tatiana will remain in the program. He said she is not being considered a dangerous animal.

On Thursday afternoon, visitors lined the fence in front of the tigers’ enclosure. Jenkins said attendance has not declined noticeably since the mauling.

“They seem fine to me,” visitor Hallie McCarthy said as Tony attempted to mount Tatiana from behind. Tatiana rebuked him with a muted roar and a nudge of her huge muzzle.

Public opinion at the enclosure seemed decidedly sympathetic to the tiger, following the mauling. The zoo has refused to give details on the circumstances surrounding the incident, at the trainer’s request, spokesman Paul Garcia said.

“I think she’s a wild animal. Wild animals do those kinds of things,” visitor Teri Meadows, of Fairfax, said.

Preliminary reports on Dec. 22 indicated that the trainer had just fed Tatiana when the tiger attacked her at about 2:15 p.m. The trainer’s arms were lacerated, but since the incident the trainer has asked the zoo not to release any information about her condition.

Jenkins said the zoo has not changed any of the procedures it uses in caring for Tatiana in the wake of the incident, nor has it changed the way Tatiana is housed or fed. However, the Lion House, where public feedings were conducted until last Friday, has been closed indefinitely.

“We’re keeping all the processes that we have in place and all the procedures in place as they are. They particularly worked in this situation in terms of our response to the incident,” Jenkins said.

“The reports may show that the procedures were followed, but with wild animals these things sometimes happen,” said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the nation’s accrediting body. Feldman said the vast majority of injuries from tigers happen to people who keep the animals as pets, not professionals who work with them in zoos.

Siberian tigers are so endangered that more exist in captivity than in the wild, Jenkins said. Tatiana is part of a breeding program that pairs fertile female tigers and eligible male tigers from zoos nationwide.

amartin@examiner.com

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