- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Nine days after a tiger mauled three visitors, the San Francisco Zoo reopened yesterday with safety improvements and more signs warning people not to pester animals such as the 350-pound Siberian tiger that killed a teenager.

The zoo’s big-cat enclosure will remain closed indefinitely, but many visitors yesterday said they wanted to show their support for the facility.

“They do their best to keep everybody safe,” said Dianne Todd, of Sunnyvale, who was there with her two young sons.

Zoo spokesman Paul Garcia said the zoo is installing a public-alert system that would broadcast an alarm to notify zoo staff of any emergency. Employees then could use portable speakers to give instructions to visitors.

The improvements were made as police investigated whether the tiger’s victims taunted the animal before it climbed or leapt from its outdoor pen. Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, was killed, and his two friends were severely injured.

“All I know is that something happened to provoke that tiger to leap out of her exhibit,” zoo director Manuel Mollinedo said Wednesday. He declined to elaborate because the police investigation was not complete.

Yesterday, zoo officials invited visitors to bring items in remembrance of Mr. Sousa and the tiger, which was fatally shot by police during the attack.

Some visitors placed flowers, cards and photographs of the animal beside a sculpture of a bronze tiger that has stood near the zoo entrance since before the mauling. An animal-rights group planned a candlelight vigil for Mr. Sousa and the tiger.

A woman said she saw three men teasing the animals shortly before the tiger attack, according to a report on the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jennifer Miller, who was at the zoo on Christmas with her husband and two children, said the family left the area because her children were disturbed by the young men’s behavior.

“The boys, especially the older one, were roaring at them. He was taunting them,” Mrs. Miller told the newspaper.

Mark Geragos, an attorney for the survivors — brothers Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, and Paul Dhaliwal, 19 — said none of the victims did anything to goad the tiger into breaking loose.

Earlier this week, he said the zoo was slow in its response to the escaped tiger, an assertion at least partially supported by police dispatch logs showing that employees initially questioned whether early reports of the attack were coming from a mentally unstable person.

Zoo officials said the tiger likely climbed out of an empty moat that separated the public from the animal’s enclosure, which had a 12½-foot wall, 4 feet shorter than the recommended minimum height for U.S. zoos.

The city hired an architect to design a new, more secure pen that would put a 19-foot-tall barrier between visitors and the zoo’s big cats.

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