Zoo apologizes for tiger escape

The chairman of the nonprofit agency that runs the San Francisco Zoo made a public apology Monday for the tiger escape in December that killed one teenager and injured two of his friends.

“There was no excuse,” Zoological Society Chairman Nick Podell said, during a Board of Supervisors committee hearing called to discuss the deadly Christmas Day attack that killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. Brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal were also mauled by the Siberian tiger, but survived.

“Under no circumstance is it OK for an animal to leave its enclosure,” said Podell, who maintained his support for zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo. Mollinedo repeated at the meeting that something “unusual and extraordinary” had to have happened to provoke the tiger, named Tatiana.

The Zoological Society took over management of the facilities from The City in 1993. With more than $1 million going toward a higher wall at the zoo’s big-cat enclosure and with thousands of dollars paid to lawyers, public relations firms, risk management experts and design consultants, city officials expressed concern that money from a $48 million bond passed by voters in 1997 for zoo improvements is drying up.

With a little over $4 million left in the bond cache, according to Recreation and Park General Manager Yomi Agunbiade, The City may no longer be able to afford a project that would fix the rooftops of the lion house behind the big-cat enclosures. The project was slated to fix leaks in the roof where the lions and tigers are currently held until the 19-foot-tall wall is completed.

bbegin@examiner.com

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