If anything kept visitors away from the Hogle Zoo Wednesday, it was the weather not a fear of the animals.
That's according to Hogle Zoo spokeswoman Holly Braithwaite, who wasn't afraid to come to work less than 24 hours after a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo escaped, killing one man and injuring two others.
Hogle Zoo also has an Amur tiger the same Siberian species that was killed by San Francisco police Tuesday but Braithwaite says 4-year-old Kazek couldn't jump over the walls of his habitat like the tiger in San Francisco did.
"Our Asian Highlands exhibit where we have our tigers is set up differently than the San Francisco Zoo," Braithwaite said. "Our exhibit is enclosed in steel mesh, even the top of it. The design itself is different."
The female tiger in San Francisco escaped from her grotto by leaping over a 20-foot-high wall and a 15-foot-wide moat. San Francisco police said Wednesday they are investigating to see if the tiger got out on its own or if humans were involved in its escape.
The Hogle Zoo added its new Asian Highlands exhibit in the summer of 2006, and with the exhibit came strict safety measures, Braithwaite said. Zookeepers do not come into direct contact with Kazek but deposit food in an enclosed area, then leave before allowing the tiger to access the food.
The zoo also has regular emergency drills to practice responding if animals escape or other alarming situations occur.
"We try to go above and beyond," Braithwaite said. "These animals are dangerous. They are wild, and that is something not to be forgotten. We here at the zoo feed these animals every day, and many people may become accustomed to the animals and know them, but we have to remember that there are dangerous areas and these safety measures are put in place for that reason."
In May 2006, a gray wolf jumped a fence at Hogle Zoo and wandered the zoo grounds for more than an hour before it was tranquilized and returned to its pen. No one was hurt, but the zoo added 4 feet of chain-link fence to the top of the already existing 7-foot fence to increase security of the area.
Braithwaite said the zoo sympathizes with the tragedy in San Francisco."Zoos are a very tight community and we are extremely sorry for this accident that occurred in San Francisco," Braithwaite said. "Our hearts go out to the families and the victims and all of the workers at the zoo. We very much feel sorry for that."
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