Siberian tiger mauls keeper at San Francisco Zoo

Times Staff Writer

A San Francisco Zoo keeper was severely injured by a Siberian tiger during a public feeding Friday, authorities said.

The keeper was in surgery late in the afternoon, according to the zoo's director of animal care, Bob Jenkins, who described her as "conscious and coherent" when she was taken to a hospital. Zoo officials declined to name the woman, a keeper for 10 years.

For the feeding, the zoo's three tigers and four lions are led into individual pens in the indoor lion house. Steel bars cordon off the animal area. Between the fenced-off animals and a railing that marks the visitors' area is an alleyway. Two keepers walk the alleyway, flinging sausage-like chunks of a meaty diet made specially for big cats into the pens.

"Basically they had completed the feeds and were walking around answering questions from the public when this occurred," Jenkins said.

Visitors told zoo officials that a 3-year-old female Siberian tiger named Tatiana grabbed "the keeper's hands in her claws and was pulling her," said Lora LaMarca, the director of marketing and public relations for the zoo. A second keeper freed the staffer from the tiger's grip.

The almost-daily public feedings have been suspended, but the cats will continue to be on display in their outdoor exhibits.

The public feedings are "a long-standing tradition," LaMarca said. "Nothing like this has ever happened before."

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