S.F. Zoo to reopen with new security measure in place

When patrons are allowed back into the San Francisco Zoo today, amid allegations of poor emergency response to a deadly tiger attack, at least one security measure that could have improved the response to the Christmas Day incident will be in place.

According to zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo, a portable speaker system will alert zoogoers if an animal escapes its enclosure, as Tatiana the Siberian tiger did on Dec. 25, fatally mauling 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and attacking his friends, Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal.

Several other safety measures are planned that could have prevented the attack, Mollinedo said. He added at a news conference Wednesday that he “didn’t know” why those safety measures weren’t already in place.

The attorney for the two brothers, celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, said his clients pleaded with zoo workers to call police and were ignored and even brushed off as mentally unstable despite one of the brothers being covered in blood. When a worker inside the Terrace Café finally called 911 at 5:07 p.m., Sousa had already been lying outside the big cat enclosure losing blood from his neck.

“He was lying there bleeding to death for 45 minutes before he got attention,” Geragos told The Examiner. “During that period of time my clients were trying to get to safety and warn others that the tiger was loose. The older brother would not have been attacked if zoo security had done their job.”

Mollinedo, however, praised his staff, saying “some of our staff did heroic things” by putting their “lives on the line.” He wouldn’t say specifically what the heroic actions were.

Zoo patrons will also find new signage that reminds visitors that the animals at the zoo are wild and “PLEASE don’t tap on glass, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to them.”

When asked, Mollinedo, said he refused to speculate as to why the tiger attacked.

“All I know is that something happened to provoke that tiger to leap out of that exhibit,” he said. An increase in the moat wall is one of the improvements planned for the enclosure.

Geragos said the reaction by the zoo is “unbelievable,” and that his clients had been portrayed in the media as having been responsible for the tiger escaping an inadequate enclosure.

“My clients aren’t under investigation; it’s the zoo that’s under criminal investigation,”Geragos said.

Also Wednesday, police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina said that investigators found an empty vodka bottle on the front seat of the car the trio drove to the zoo.

“They did find the bottle, but what that signifies or how that plays into this will be known later,” he said.

bbegin@examiner.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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