Zoo emergency



Keywords: zoo emergency
Description: The 18-page "Emergency Procedures" manual, written in 2006, spells out what zookeepers, guards and even the receptionist in the main office are supposed to do if a "Siberian tiger is out of its enclosure" or any other dangerous animal escapes. The methodical, step-by-step plan of action is at sharp odds with the horrific, chaotic scene that unfolded in the dark following the tiger's escape from its grotto. Zookeepers who observe the escape of a dangerous animal are supposed to call a "Code One" to the zoo security office. According to the plan, the veterinary staff is supposed to "gather chemical immobilization equipment in preparation for anesthetizing the animal." The main office receptionist is supposed to "assume the role of liaison to outside emergency response systems," assuming he or she has remained calm enough to do so. The wall of the dry moat around the exhibit is only 12 1/2 feet tall - nearly 4 feet shorter than national standards recommend and 8 feet shorter than earlier estimates by zoo officials. Big cat experts say the wall height almost certainly played a crucial role in the escape of Tatiana, who almost a year earlier chewed the flesh off a zookeeper's arm. Kulbir Dhaliwal allegedly cursed officers and kicked the security partition between the back and front seats in a police car after being handcuffed in the Sept. 7 incident, the police report said.

Remain calm. Ensure the safety of zoo visitors. Recapture the animal. Ensure the safety of the animal.

That's how to handle an escaped tiger, according to the San Francisco Zoo's official emergency plan obtained by The Chronicle .

The 18-page "Emergency Procedures" manual, written in 2006, spells out what zookeepers, guards and even the receptionist in the main office are supposed to do if a "Siberian tiger is out of its enclosure" or any other dangerous animal escapes.

Little of that happened, however, in the frantic moments on Christmas afternoon when an escaped Siberian tiger fatally mauled one visitor and then followed a trail of blood to track down and injure two others. The cat was then shot and killed by police.

The "animal escape" plan is part of the printed guide given to all zoo employees. The methodical, step-by-step plan of action is at sharp odds with the horrific, chaotic scene that unfolded in the dark following the tiger's escape from its grotto.

Some visitors have told The Chronicle that they didn't know a tiger had been loose until long after the animal was dead.

Zookeepers who observe the escape of a dangerous animal are supposed to call a "Code One" to the zoo security office. A Code One' means a "life-threatening or dangerous animal" has gotten loose and that armed assistance is required.

The zoo has a "shooting team" which is supposed to respond to Code One emergencies. It is not clear if the team ever responded. On Christmas, the shooting was done not by zoo personnel but by four police officers.

According to the plan, the veterinary staff is supposed to "gather chemical immobilization equipment in preparation for anesthetizing the animal." But with the animal in the process of mauling a visitor when officers arrived, there was no time to attempt an anesthetization.

The main office receptionist is supposed to "assume the role of liaison to outside emergency response systems," assuming he or she has remained calm enough to do so.

The plan instructs zoo custodians, handymen and popcorn vendors to "remain inside (and) close the door" which, on Christmas afternoon, may have been the most followed instruction of all.

The zoo remains shuttered today for the third day. Officials said today it would reopen Jan. 3, although it's unclear if the tiger exhibit will be open to the public at that time.

Meanwhile, the two brothers who survived a fatal tiger mauling at the San Francisco Zoo will likely be released from the hospital this weekend, relatives said today.

Zoo officials have refused to answer any questions today about how the escape might have happened. Officials admitted that they didn't know until Thursday the true size of the wall designed to keep the tigers in their grotto. The wall of the dry moat around the exhibit is only 12 1/2 feet tall - nearly 4 feet shorter than national standards recommend and 8 feet shorter than earlier estimates by zoo officials.

Big cat experts say the wall height almost certainly played a crucial role in the escape of Tatiana, who almost a year earlier chewed the flesh off a zookeeper's arm.

"That height would be scalable," said Ronal Tilson. director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo. who since 1987 has been overseeing the tiger species survival plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums .

"A tiger cannot leap over something like that, but what it can do is stand up and with a little hop or jump, more than likely get its paws on the ledge," Tilson said. "That would not be much of a trick. And they are so powerful that they can scoot themselves up."

Sources have told The Chronicle that the tiger's rear claws show signs of wear, supporting the theory that Tatiana may have used her rear legs to climb the wall. Authorities have not ruled out the possibility that one of the victims dangled a leg or arm over the enclosure and that Tatiana latched on to the limb to pull herself out.

Evidence collected at the scene indicates someone may have crossed a metal fence that surrounds the tiger grotto. Blood was found between the fence and the moat wall as was a shoeprint on the fence.

Brothers Amritpal "Paul" Dhaliwal, 19, and 23-year-old Kulbir Dhaliwal traveled with Sousa to the zoo on Christmas Day.

The brothers have been hostile to police interviewers, at first refusing to give their own names, identify Sousa or give an account of what occurred.

They were charged earlier this year with misdemeanor public intoxication and resisting a police officer after they were arrested a short distance from their home, according to court documents.

Kulbir Dhaliwal allegedly cursed officers and kicked the security partition between the back and front seats in a police car after being handcuffed in the Sept. 7 incident, the police report said.

The brothers pleaded not guilty to the charges and are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 15, records show. Their attorney in that case has not returned calls seeking comment.

Authorities said they were able to interview the brothers Thursday about the attack. Police didn't release details of their conversations with the Dhaliwals, but said their investigation showed the tiger first attacked the older brother.

The tiger then turned on Sousa, who died outside the grotto. The brothers ran to a zoo cafe where they had just had some food. The tiger followed them to the cafe and attacked. That's where police shot the animal.






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