Safety work almost complete on S.F. Zoo tiger grotto

Work is mostly done on safety enhancements to the San Francisco Zoo's big cat exhibit, which has been closed since the Christmas Day escape of a tiger that killed a boy and mauled his two friends before police shot it

dead.

Workersraised the concrete moat wall surrounding four lion and tiger grottos about 4 feet, which meets the minimum Association of Zoos and Aquariums guideline of 16 feet and 4 inches, authorities said.

The zoo installed glazing and fencing on top of the wall to extend the barrier height to 19 feet. It also added an electric shock-emitting wire and new glass barriers to ensure the cats can't escape.

Further renovations, scheduled for completion in March, will include replacing temporary fencing with stainless steel wire mesh and the installation of an electrified wire along the finger walls of the grotto, the zoo said.

While the work continues, staff is considering when to reopen the exhibit to the public.

The process of reintroducing the big cats to the outdoor portion of their exhibit will be slow and gradual, said Manuel Mollinedo, the zoo's president and executive director.

“The lions need to adjust to the upgrades to their exhibits and the surrounding areas,” he said.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is overseeing the renovations, C+A Architects designed them and Yerba Buena Engineering and Construction Inc. is carrying out the construction.

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