Handler Killed by Tigers in N.Y. a Moorpark Grad

Times Staff Writer

A classmate and an instructor of a former Moorpark College animal management student killed by Siberian tigers Monday at the Bronx Zoo said they were shocked by reports that she had broken what the zoo director called the “cardinal rule of animal care.”

“She was really intelligent, a really heads-up person,” said Dennis McLaughlin of Moorpark, remembering his classmate Robin Silverman, 24, who was killed by the tigers. The zoo director said Silverman, intent on cleaning the animals’ enclosure, went into the area without first checking to see where the tigers were. Animal experts generally agree that a handler should always be aware of an animal’s whereabouts before getting into its enclosure.

“She was the type of person you could rely on for not making the kind of mistake she made,” McLaughlin said. “It really bothers me. She really had her faculties together when she was working” with exotic animals.


Silverman, a native of New York, graduated in 1983 from Moorpark’s Exotic Animal Training and Management Program.

She was one of the many students from across the nation who attend the Moorpark animal management program. After graduating, she went on to Fordham University, where she earned a degree in animal behavior in May.

Several of Silverman’s classmates called the college Tuesday, hoping to learn more about her death, instructor Gary Wilson said.

Wilson said Silverman had been in his classes on biology of exotic land animals and biology of marine vertebrates.

He recalled that she was a good student and had attended the annual class reunions.

Wilson said Leslie Pon Tel, assistant director of the program, called Silverman’s father in New York, but that the father wasn’t up to discussing the accident.

Her father did ask, however, that any friends who wanted to send flowers should instead make a contribution to their favorite zoo, Wilson said.