Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Tragedy Prevented?

The outrage is to be expected and has not disappointed. The lack of empathy, humanity is not disappointing. The level of stupidity would give Charles Darwin another great case study. The fact that this is not an isolated event is heartbreaking.

The details of the event, as they were being reported in real time, began vague, and unfortunately misleading. There was an attack at a zoo. A woman had been attacked by a tiger, was originally reported. It would be natural for readers to believe that it was likely an caretaker or handler, even thought there are procedures in place meant to prevent such accidents. Then the details got strange. It was a cleaning person, making no reference to gender, leaving readers to still think it was a woman. But now the question was, “how does a cleaning person get attacked by a tiger?” The final identification of the evening described a male, working for a “3rd party cleaning company,” in other words, a sub-contractor hired by the contractor, hired by the zoo to clean its gift shop and restrooms. Now the obvious question. How in the Hell did this individual get attacked by a tiger in the zoo.

Of course, as authorities had been called, local sheriff deputies had not idea, if the tiger had escaped its enclosure, to attack the individual. The area around the zoo is very populated, and who knows what could have happened, had that been the case. But we do know what happened. It was caught on video.

This is a still shot of the tiger enclosure during the incident, towards the conclusion. The body cam footage itself is so tragic and way too graphic, but it is in its entirety. I was shocked that it was released so quickly. But the video shows officers arrive at the zoo, closed for the day nearly two hours earlier, assumed all staff departed, now greeted by one zoo employee. The officer runs back to the tiger enclosure, in pitch darkness, the light of his flashlight his only way to see where he is going.

When the officer arrives near the pen, he can hear the screams of a victim. As he arrives, there is an individual on the ground, feet propped up against the chain link fence, using any and all strength, to prevent being pulled in further into the enclosure. Now, while you are wondering how does someone get pulled into a chain link enclosure, this individual, and it is not being explained what he was actually doing, was either attempting to feed or pet this tiger, and reached his hand through one of the links. And the tiger naturally reacted. This was no attack and I resent it being called that.

It needs to be noted, this individual climbed over the first prevention to get to the tiger enclosure, then stuck his hand through the cage. But I have several other questions. The 9-1-1 call was placed by him, as there was no one else at the zoo. Is there video or are there photos on his camera of his stupid stunt in today’s TikTok world? The individual was to be only in the gift shop area to clean and its bathrooms, no where near the tiger enclosure. How did he gain access to the rest of the preserve? While this individual worked for a contractor, what responsibility does this company have in this event?

I got sidetracked. Assistance from other offers and emergency personnel quickly arrived with the officer. Not having access to any of the equipment zoo personnel would have at their disposal for such an incident, they bravely did what they could to distract the tiger, to release the man’s arm, firmly trapped in the tiger’s mouth. From kicking the fencing to shouting, the tiger would not release the bloody piece of food it had in its mouth.

And I want to be clear, I do not fault the officer at all with what happened next. But what does piss me off, is the reaction of the man (and notice, I refuse to call him a victim), the officer states, “I am going to have to shoot the tiger.” The man shouts back, “SHOOT IT! SHOOT IT!”, begging for his life that he foolishly put in this position. In the darkness, the officers fires one shot, hitting the tiger, who then runs off to the back of his enclosure, freeing up the individual and he is removed and transported to a nearby hospital.

While unable to locate the tiger in the darkness, they would eventually locate the wounded animal, who would later succumb to the gunshot wound. There are all kinds of “Monday morning quarterbacking” going on in this case, as to things the officer could have done differently, there was nothing. Even firing a warning shot in the dark, could cause a ricochet hitting another person. Where were zoo personnel who would have had access to emergency tranquilizer equipment that could have been used instead? The truth is, only one thing could have prevented this ending, and it started not just with the perpetrator, but the zoo itself.

Make no mistake, the zoo itself, while I am no fan of captive animals, do serve a purpose in helping to preserve, rescue, rehabilitate, and educate about various species. I have been to this zoo several times as I live in the area, and I have seen Eko, a beautiful rare Malayan tiger.

So rare is this tiger, there are just over 200 left in the world. Now there is one less.

There are investigations on many levels going on now, including by the zoo itself. It is nationally accredited and recognized by the Association Of Zoos and Aquariums (how they came about having Eko in the first place as part of the Species Survival Plan), and is a member of the American Association Of Zoo Keepers.

If this event sounds familiar, it should. Do you remember Harambe?

Harambe was a lowland gorilla that was killed, when a small child, unattended by its parent(s), not paying attention, had climbed into the gorilla’s enclosure. To save the child’s life, which likely the gorilla would have taken, the gorilla was shot and killed.

Many do not like zoos at all for one reason, that they do not feel animals belong captive. I do see the big picture that in some cases, and I have been to several, the zoos are about conservation and preservation. But the most important part of that goal, is PROTECTION. And now, at least in my knowledge, I am aware of two such examples that we have failed to protect these rare and beautiful animals, from the stupid and selfish acts.

I am not likely to return to this zoo, as my disappointment is immeasurable. In a bank, ALL of the money is secured when a cleaning company comes into the bank. There is no chance of a worker walking off with cash. Why in the Hell, if there would be no zoo personnel present, after hours, while an outside contractor was supposed to be restricted to the main entrance part of the zoo, did this individual get back into the living habitats of the many animals kept on the outside of the structure he was limited to? Why was there no zoo supervision? So many questions.

Yes, there is outrage for Eko. And there should be.

Yes, there is lack of empathy for the individual responsible for this tragic loss of such a beautiful animal. The comments, in a good majority, claim that the officer shot the wrong target, should have let the tiger finish the guy off, while a small group of people offer a more peaceful and humane support of the wounded contractor. While I do not wish harm on anyone ever, I cannot find any space currently, in my heart for this individual and his stupidity. He will recover, his arm permanently maimed. But for those who got to see Eko in person, and even more difficult, those who were his handlers, this is a tragic loss that did not need to happen.

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