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Report: Tiger Involved In Deadly Zoo Attack Was 'Provoked'

KTLATiger (animal)U.S. Department of AgricultureCensorship

SAN FRANCISCO (KTLA) -- The female Siberian tiger that fatally mauled a man at the San Francisco zoo on Christmas Day 2007, was likely provoked, according to a federal investigator.

Documents obtained by the Associated Press, state that "It appears the tiger was able to jump from the bottom of the dry moat to the top of the wall, and gain enough purchase over the top to pull herself out over the moat wall," and "With my knowledge of tiger behaviour I cannot imagine a tiger trying to jump out of its enclosure unless it was provoked," wrote Laurie Gage, a tiger expert who investigated the scene for the US Dept. of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

While the statement was written in a draft on Dec. 27, 2007, it was removed from the final version of the report because it was "irrelevant from an Animal Welfare Act enforcement standpoint," said David Sacks, a spokesman for APHIS.

The documents were provided to The AP more than three years after a Freedom of Information Act request and they offer the first glimpse into the findings of the APHIS investigation and details from the scene written by some of the officers who killed Tatiana.

Tatiana was killed in a hail of police gunfire following the fatal mauling of 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr.

Two of his friends -- brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal -- were also injured in the attack.

According to San Francisco Zoo officials, in more than 65 years, no other tiger had escaped from that enclosure but following the incident, new safety measures were put in place.

"Nobody was there to witness it at that time of day, it was closing, just the people who were there and the tigers," said Lora LaMarca, a zoo spokeswoman told The AP. "We cannot prove the animal was provoked, and regardless of that, she was able to jump out which led to a whole series of renovations to that exhibit which makes sure this will never happen again."

The USDA fined the zoo $1,875 for violations associated with the tiger enclosure that allowed Tatiana to escape.

Meantime, the Dhaliwal brothers have denied provoking the big cat, but Sousa's father told police that Paul Dhaliwal had admitted to being drunk and yelling and waving at the animal before the attack.

Sousa's parents settled their wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, and the Dhaliwal brothers settled their lawsuit for a reported $900,000, according to The AP.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun