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KCBS In Depth: How SF Zoo Has Changed Since Fatal Tiger Mauling

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An entrance sign at the San Francisco Zoo (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

An entrance sign at the San Francisco Zoo (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – It’s been nearly five years since the Christmas Day 2007 tiger attack that left one young man dead and two others wounded at the San Francisco Zoo.

The female Siberian tiger named Tatiana killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injured his friends, brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal. Tatiana was herself killed in a hail of police gunfire when authorities responded to calls for help.

A subsequent investigation into the incident determined that the young men had provoked Tatiana, who managed to breach the top of her enclosure wall, which was lower than federal safety standards dictate.

The gruesome incident hit the zoo hard – donors and visitors alike stayed away, forcing the zoo to enter something of a rebuilding, rebranding phase.

The efforts appear to be paying off.

“We’ve regained both membership and attendance,” declared San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson, who took the job in 2008. “We just broke 800,000 visitors which has been a record for us. It’s been a number of years since we’ve reached those attendance levels.”

Peterson has trimmed costs at the zoo, and she is reported to be working more closely with the staff than her predecessor.

KCBS In Depth:

And now, according to Peterson, the zoo considers itself a conservation and rescue organization.

“We view ourselves as a Noah’s Ark, if you will, of the endangered species. That we’re housing these animals so at a time, perhaps they can be returned to the wild.”

“We really do want to focus on reviving endangered species,” she added. “Not all rescued animals fall in that category. Of course, to the extent we have resources, adequate room and adequate staffing, we will consider any rescued animal.”

You can hear KCBS In Depth, a weekly half-hour news interview, Saturdays at 5:30a.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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