Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

ADI Calls for Closure of Big Cat Exhibits at San Francisco Zoo

Posted: 4 January 2008

The San Francisco-based international animal welfare organization Animal Defenders International (ADI) is calling for the San Francisco Zoo to cease the public display of tigers, lions and other members of the cat family.

The mauling death of a young man and the resulting killing of the tiger Tatiana exposes the challenges of displaying wild animals for public entertainment. The large cat had been deprived of many things that make life enjoyable for a tiger, thus creating a stressful environment. These animals are psychologically damaged by being forced to live constantly exposed to staring and potential harassment by humans. For cats who would normally live in quiet isolation in the forest, this human attention is mental torture. These dangerous animals are not domesticated, even if born in captivity. Their natural instincts dispose them only to life in the wild, where they are able to truly fulfill their needs.

Whether the young men tormented the animal or not, she was suffering, and she tried to escape from what was, in effect, a prison. Now a young man has lost his life, and this tiger’s suffering has been brought to an end in an incident full of pain and fear. This is the price of entertainment.

ADI’s Program Director Jennifer Blum responded to this tragedy, “Our hearts go out to the family of this young man. The San Francisco Zoo and other zoos around the country should do away with such exhibits. It is just a place of entertainment for people, but for the animals it is a life sentence of enslavement, boredom and depression. Even with the best of intentions and state-of-the-art facilities, these establishments cannot provide the animals with the space and environment they truly need and deserve, and this deprivation results in mental and emotional damage. Not only is this a moral issue, it is a public safety issue as well. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) simply does not have the power to demand that our nation’s zoo exhibit and enclosure standards be met.”

In fact, Ron Tilson, who oversees tiger management for the AZA, says their enclosure guidelines “have never been compulsory.” He adds, “In no way do I have the power to implement them or demand that they be met.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) “has only about 100 inspectors, and critics say those inspectors are overwhelmed with the responsibility for regulating more than 200 accredited zoos, thousands of roadside attractions, circuses and other private animal exhibitors.”

For the sake of the public and the animals, it’s time we do away with big cat exhibits, and the San Francisco Zoo should take this opportunity to set an example for other zoos.

Learn more about ADI’s campaigns to end the abuse of animals in entertainment

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