Man cited after guest reports him throwing acorns at rhino at S.F. Zoo

With the Christmas Day tiger mauling still looming over the San Francisco Zoo, a patron turned in two men who were throwing acorns at a rhinoceros, zoo officials said Friday.

Between 2 and 3 p.m. Thursday, a woman notified the zoo that the men, between 20 and 30 years of age, were throwing what appeared to be acorns at a rhinoceros, according to zoo spokesman Paul Garcia.

Zoo security responded and, after witnessing the men throwing objects at the 6,000-pound animal, called the San Francisco Police Department, Garcia said.

Police officers and animal control officers responded to the zoo and detained the men, according to Garcia. One of the men was cited by the animal control officers for disturbing an animal.

The black rhinoceros did not appear to be affected by the acorns, Garcia said.

“We are happy that the guest took the initiative and contacted us,” Garcia said.

Garcia said he could not remember an instance in which a person had been cited for disturbing animals at the zoo. Before Thursday, he said, unruly patrons were escorted out of the zoo by security.

The woman had called a hot line number that is posted on signs outside the animal exhibits. The signs are a new addition after the fatal tiger mauling on Christmas Day, according to zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca. She said the signs have resulted in other calls to the zoo about animals being annoyed, but this was the first serious incidentreported.

On Christmas Day, 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. was fatally mauled after a Siberian tiger escaped her enclosure. The tiger also mauled brothers Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23.

After the attack, it was discovered that the concrete barrier was less than 13-feet tall, when the minimum height suggested by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is 16 feet 4 inches.

Since then, the zoo has completed safety improvements to the grottoes, which cost The City an estimated $1.7 million, according to city officials.

The new barrier with added glass panes and wire meshing brings the height to at least 19 feet from the bottom of the moat, and a “hot wire” with 8,000 volts of electricity running through it lines the barrier separating the viewing public from the big cats.

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