By now you’ve heard about the fatal mauling of a visitor by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. It’s a story that’s been hard to miss this week, and media in Florida have tried to find a local angle on the story by interviewing “experts” in their community.
Some of the stories were humorous. First Coast News Ch. 25/12 spoke to a representative of the Jacksonville Zoo, who said that the zoo holds animal escape drills, where an employee “dresses up and acts like an animal, hiding or attacking.”
Other comments were meant to be comforting, but weren’t. A story on Orlando’s Fox TV Ch. 35 asked, “How Safe Is Central Florida’s Zoo?” Fred Antonio, curator at the Central Florida Zoo said it is rare for animals to escape, but it is not unusual for animals to try to escape.
Although Florida has very few genuine tiger experts, our state has many tiger trainers, tiger breeders and tiger collectors.
Len Mattox, from the Sasquatch Zoo in Crestview told the Northwest Florida Daily News that he suspects the tiger in San Francisco, “had not been disciplined properly as a cub.” We can only imagine how the animals at his zoo are disciplined! Mr. Mattox described the Sasquatch Zoo’s tiger enclosure as “an 8-foot cement bedroom surrounded by a 10-foot fence.”
The paper also interviewed Josip Marcan, an infamous breeder and trainer of tigers for circuses. Mr. Marcan said that, “zoo tigers are different from circus tigers,” and claimed that circus tigers are less likely to act aggressively. He must have poor memory. Mr. Marcan regularly trucks his tigers across the country to perform at state and county fairs. In 2006, during a stay at the Putnam County Fair, one of his employees was rushed to a local hospital after being bit by a tiger.
WWSB TV Ch. 7 visited Sarasota’s Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary, which has 32 tigers. Owner Kay Rosaire attempted to allay local concerns by telling the reporter that her tigers are declawed and too fat to climb or jump. On the website of Big Cat Habitat you can learn odd facts, such as: Kay’s son Clayton “is one of the few men in the world who can put his head in a lion’s mouth.” Members of the extended Rosaire family have depressing bear and chimpanzee circus acts.
Finally, WMBB TV Ch. 13 in Panama City contacted a roadside zoo in Panama City Beach called ZooWorld. ZooWorld curator Tom Walling’s advice for zoo visitors was, “look at the animals, be quiet, talk to each other and don’t do anything to agitate the animals.” Or better yet, skip the zoo entirely!