Three-and-a-half years after the SF Zoo tiger attack that killed one man, injured two others, and cost the city, reports say, at least a million dollars, documents have been released that confirm what we kind of suspected already — that Tatiana, a 350 pound Siberian tiger was “provoked” into escaping her enclosure.

According to a December 27, 2007 report acquired by the AP after a Freedom of Information Act request, Laurie Gage, a tiger expert who investigated the scene for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, concluded that “(w)ith my knowledge of tiger behavior I cannot imagine a tiger trying to jump out of its enclosure unless it was provoked.”

The tiger is thought to have scaled the enclosure wall, which was shorter than national standards, at about 12 feet. Then she killed 17 year old Carlos Sousa Jr. before, the report says, she tracked brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal for about 300 yards, and attacked them again.

“After a kill, I find it interesting the tiger would leave a kill to go after something else unless there were a compelling reason,” Gage wrote in the report. “The tiger passed exhibits with warthogs…which it ignored as it followed (the blood trail?) of the two brothers to the Terrace Cafe outside the dining area.”

Gage’s findings stand in stark contrast to an SFPD interview with the Dhaliwal brothers obtained by the Examiner last year, in which a police officer asked “(d)id you guys do anything to try and get the tiger’s attention?” to which Kulbir Dhaliwal replied “No, we were just looking for a minute then we were walking away and this tiger jumped at us.”

However, former tiger trainer Chris Austria concurs with Gage’s assessment, telling ABC7 that “To actually jump 12 and a half feet, grab onto the top of the moat with her claws and pull herself up, it’s an outstanding feat that’s very, very unusual.”

The Dhaliwal brothers, who settled with the Zoo for a reported $900,000, have been in the news with several nontigerrelated legal issues.

A representative for the family of Carlos Sousa Jr., which also settled for an undisclosed amount, said that the Zoo remains at fault, telling ABC7 that “It should have been their priority and their obligation to keep that tiger in that enclosure no matter what people did to it.”

Tatiana the tiger, who was shot dead by SFPD the night of the attack, remains memorialized in a sculpture near the Greenwich Steps on the east side of Coit Tower. SF Zoo’s other Siberian tiger was euthanized last June. Their tiger grotto, which has since been remodeled, continues to house Leeann and Padang, two Sumatran tigers.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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