YEAR OF THE TIGER
Couldn't pass up that phrase in packing up my contrition for letting December go by without a single blog entry along with the topic for this New Year's one, which is the big Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Fransisco Zoo.
I will have more to say on this as information is solidified and distinquished from rumor or lies. Already the Zoo has lied about the height of the wall the tiger got over - prettty much the most crucial fact they could have said anything about - and there have been various descriptions of the behavior of those who were mauled as intentionally taunting the big cats. The Zoo seems to think that if those descriptions are true, they're somehow exonerated. The inevitable lawsuits over this incident and previous fiascoes should should help clarify that issue for them.
However this all turns out, there are a couple interesting facts to keep in mind: The AZA, which so famously raised a huge stink about zoos sending elephants to sanctuaries instead of other zoos, holding their zoo accreditation hostage on the outcome of those decisions, seems to be much more laissez-faire about its official standards for things that mean the difference between life and death - the height of enclosures for large wild predators. In contrast to the elephant situation, the AZA's tiger specialist says about these crucial standards, "in no way do I have the power to implement them or demand that they be met."
And lastly, all the talk about "what went wrong" and what can be done to make sure this never happens again is utterly bogus. What went wrong is that large wild animals were held captive in the midst of a heaviliy populated human environment, specifically so that humans could come and derive entertainment from the situation - as the mauled brothers, and the teenager who was killed, did according to their own definition of entertainment. This incident is not an aberration, either for the SF Zoo or for Zoos in general. It's just one extreme, fatal example of the underlying idiocy of city zoos in the 21st century.
UPDATE 1/7: It shouldn't be surprising for another animal-exploiting institution managed by the USDA, but America's zoos have almost zero oversight when it comes to such life-and-death issues as escaped animals: No agency keeps track of how many escaped-animal incidents zoos have, "private" zoos are not even expected to disclose such information, and "even the main zoo oversight association does not release records of zoo escapes - and the only time zoos are required to report such incidents to the association is if there is an injury." California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine calls the oversight setup "the fox guarding the hen house." Sound familiar?
ALSO: I love the sign in the photo on this page. After all, if there's one thing imprisoning sentient animals for their entire lives in order to provide momentary entertainment for passersby says loud and clear, it's "Respect."
Friday, January 4
YEAR OF THE TIGER