Born Free?

January 2008

Following the incident last month where a Denver-born tiger killed one person and injured two others in San Francisco, Salon asks whether tigers ought to be kept in zoos at all.

It doesn't matter whether Tatiana, the tiger who attacked three people and killed one at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day, was being teased or taunted. It doesn't matter because zoo animals shouldn't be able to escape from their enclosures no matter how rude people are to them. It also doesn't matter because even if the young men were doing nothing, or were making gestures of homage and respect, Tatiana had years of reasons to be in a bad mood. Tigers are among zoo visitors' favorite animals. They're also one reason many people hate zoos. Saddened by the picture of misery presented by the tiger who repetitively paces back and forth, back and forth, some people never go back.

The San Francisco incident was not the first time a big cat with Denver roots was involved in an attack on humans. Earlier last year, a 140-pound jaguar killed a worker at the Denver Zoo. And in 2000, a Siberian tiger named Boris tore off the arm of a woman who reached into his cage at an animal refuge near Kiowa. I fall into the category of people who find zoos depressing, though I support the good that they do. Still, the Salon article asks valid questions about whether zoos are worthwhile for every species.Â

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