S.F. Zoo plans to reopen mane attraction

More than eight months after a 350-pound tiger viciously attacked a trainer, the San Francisco Zoo will reopen its popular Lion House exhibit Friday.

Tatiana, a 3-year-old endangered Siberian tiger, mauled the arms ofa female caregiver during a routine feeding at the Lion House in front of dozens of onlookers on Dec. 22, 2006. Witnesses to the attack recall that the victim’s right hand and most of her arm were eaten by the big cat.

Zoo officials declined to comment on the incident until a news conference this morning, saying only that extra safety measures would be added. They didn’t offer any details into what the extra measures were or whether Tatiana will be included in the Lion House feeding sessions. California’s Division of Occupation Safety and Health found the Zoo to be at fault for the attack after completing an investigation in June.

“All we can say is that the Lion House will be reopening for the public on Friday, so we can go back to our normal Lion House demonstration, which will be six days a week at 2 p.m,” Zoo spokesman Paul Garcia said.

Trainer Lori Komejan, 46 years old at the time of the attack, was transported to San Francisco General Hospital where she was conscious and alert. Since the incident, any information about the condition of the long-time employee has been withheld per family requests.

Tatiana came to San Francisco as part of a breeding program that pairs fertile female tigers and eligible male tigers from zoos nationwide. Tatiana is paired with the Siberian male tiger, Tony. There are only 500-1,500 of Siberian tigers left on the planet, Garcia said.

The Lion House, a city landmark, has been the destination for millions of visitors since it was opened to the public about 40 years ago, Garcia said. During feeding sessions, caregivers drop in chunks of meat for lions and tigers, separated by individual pen areas. Onlookers can ask questions during the feeding.

“It’s been kind of a tradition here at the Zoo,” Garcia said. “It’s one of the few places that still provides that intimacy.”

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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