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San Francisco Zoo’s Director Manuel Mollinedo Brings Bad Luck With Him

Thursday, December 27, 2007

UPDATED 01/01/08 (see below)

The bizarre and horrifying Christmas day story of Tatiana, the 350 pound Siberian tiger, that escaped from her cage at the San Francisco Zoo, tragically killing 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and badly mauling two brothers Paul Dhaliwal, 19, and Kulbir Dhaliwal, 23, gets weirder and weirder.

Tatiana Tiger

The weirdness I’m speaking of is about the Zoo’s Director, Manuel Mollinedo, who with each news conference keeps back peddling on the facts.

I watched his first press conference on Wednesday where he said that the tiger enclosure had a wall that was 18 feet high and a 20 foot wide dry moat. Today he corrected himself saying the wall around the animal’s pen was just 12 1/2 feet high and the moat was 33 feet across.

The American Zoological Assn. recommends a height of at least 16 feet — a 14-foot wall or fence, plus a 2-foot ledge pointed into the enclosure at a 45-degree angle. The S.F Zoo’s Tiger Grotto does not even come close to these recommendations.

At the Bronx Zoo, the tigers are surrounded by a 20-foot-high chain- link fence with a 5-foot overhang that curls inward at the top. An electrified wire runs along the inside of the fence.

The Philadelphia Zoo said it has 16-foot walls topped with a 3-foot overhang. At the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk, Va., the walls are 15 to 20 feet high with a 5-foot overhang and an electrified wire. At the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Ariz., the wire fence is about 17 feet.

Mollinedo is also blaming the victims for the Tiger’s escape — alleging that they were taunting Tatiana. Maybe they did — but the tiger enclosure should have been secure enough to prevent the escape from happening.

I’m calling this the “Mollinedo Curse” as this was not the first incident with Tatiana. On Dec. 22, 2006, Tatiana reached through the bars of her cage and grabbed a keeper, Lori Komejan, biting and mauling one of the woman’s arms and causing deep lacerations. Lori is currently suing for 8 million dollars in damages.

Manuel Mollinedo was in his first year as the Director of the Los Angeles Zoo when Calle an Asian elephant trampled a keeper to death in 1996. Manuel had the elephant moved form L.A, ironically to the San Francisco Zoo.

In June of 2001 San Francisco Chronicle executive editor Phil Bronstein was having an “inside tour” of the L.A. Zoo when attacked inside the cage of a Komodo dragon. Bronstein was shoeless at the time of the attack, he told The Chronicle. He had been wearing white tennis shoes but because the dragon is fed white rats, the zookeeper suggested Bronstein remove his shoes so the dragon didn’t mistake them for its next meal. The dragon, clamped down on Bronstein’s bare foot resulting in severed tendons and a crushed big toe.

Mollinedo was hired for the $200,000 a year position as the Director of the San Francisco Zoo in 2004. Barely six weeks on the job and his past with Calle the Asian elephant caught up with him.

“It is ironic,” said Mollinedo, referring to the uproar over his decision to euthanize Calle. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would ever end up at the San Francisco Zoo and see Calle again — but here she was, … It became a quality-of-life issue.”

Animal Activists had been fighting to have Calle moved to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee days before she was euthanized.

A little over a month later, in April 2004, Maybelle, a 43-year-old female 10,000-pound African elephant died after receiving pain medication. Shortly after this second death, the remaining two elephants were transferred to the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors should immediately conduct a thorough examination of Mr. Mollinedo’s ability to run any Zoo safely. Perhaps it is time to transfer Manuel Mollinedo back to his previous job as general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

“I had aspired to it throughout my professional career,” said Mollinedo, whose background is recreation rather than zoology or veterinary medicine.

Update: According to ABC News, High Powered Attorney Mark Geragos has been hired by the Dhaliwal brothers to represent them in anticipation of filing a lawsuit against the zoo. Here is the link to the ABC News Story: Tiger Attacked Brothers Hire Legal Pit Bull.

Updated: 1532PT 01/01/08

Posted: 2325PT 12/27/07


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23 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, December 28, 2007 4:57 pm

    I hope the press will be not be so quick…To report person opinions as matters of fact.
    Where was animal control when this incident occurred?Police officer are not trained in animal control. Why were they allowed to kill this endangered animal? Wasn’t animal control suppose to be there before anyone else other than EMTS : for the safety of SFPD & GENERAL PUBLIC. They killed this protected endangered animal..Where they told to shot to kill…Why? What no tranquilizer guns?…WHAT ABOUT THAT!
    Why were these kids in the zoo after hours? Did they ignore the zoo closing time. Why weren’t they with there families on Christmas Day. If they were so close and since they’ll be so missed by there families.WHAT ABOUT THIS?
    They should have been in San Jose w/there. families. What was there tox-screens.
    Did they have fake indenification? These kids are not innocent in this. Not at all.
    Will this be addressed in any way…No beccause the public and the press will not hold them accountable for there actions…And, they Damn well should be.. Taunting this animal, hanging, reaching ,dangling,and stepping on railings..
    THIS ANIMAL WAS BORN IN CAPTIVITY! WHY WOULD SHE JUST LEAP OUT!
    SHAME ON YOU!!!GET SO FACTS! RAISE SOME MONEY FOR THE ZOO!
    SHAME ON THESE MISCHEVIOUS CHILDREN!!WHATZ THE FAMILY BACKROUND?IS THIS WHAT YOU TAUGHT !THIS IS HOW THEY RESPECT ANIMALS!! THEIR BEHAVIOR WAS WRECKLESS AND IRRESPONSIBLE!!

    MEANWHILE,YOU POINT THE FINGER AT THE DIRECTOR! WHAT OF THE INSPECTIONS PASSED BY THE ZOO!
    SEEMS THEY WERE GIVEN BAD INFORMATION..
    THE TRUTH IS THEY DIDN”T RESPECT THE ANIMALS..THEY DIDN’T RESPECT THE ZOO RULES!

    LOOK AT WHAT THERE ACTIONS CAUSED!! WE ARE LUCKY NO ONE ELSE WAS HURT!!

    Why is it relative what his Job was prior to being zoo directors..
    Why isn’t the money being raised help with repair need for this San Francisco Zoo.

  2. Friday, December 28, 2007 6:18 pm

    THIS A SAD DAY…

    THESE YOUNG MEN….THERE ACTIONS WILL BE REMEMBER BY ALL..
    NOT BECAUSE THEY WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE BY ANYONE.

    IF ACCOUNTABILITY IS TO HANDED OUT.
    LETS HOPE THEY WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT THEY CAUSED.
    BUT, MAY NEVER BE ACKNOWLEDGED…

    ALOT OF PEOPLE COULD HAVE BEEN HURT. PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR THE ZOO WILL NOT BE ABLE TO WORK..THE PRESS IS ON A MANHUNT THEY MUST ASSIGN THE BLAME…

    THESE YOUNG MEN WERE CARELESS, THOUGHTLESS, AND DISREGARDED THE ZOO RULES…
    RULES, POLICY AND PROCEDURE ARE PUT INTO PLACE TO PROTECT THE ANIMALS, STAFF AND GENERAL PUBLIC..

    BUT, I’M SURE THEY DID NOT STOP TO THINK OF WHAT COULD HAPPEN..
    I’M SURE WHAT IF NEVER OCCURED TO THEM..
    BUT, THESE ARE YOUNG MEN NOT MERE CHILDREN..
    THEY WERE WELL OVER 15 YEARS OLD…
    I’M SURE ALL THERE PRESS AND FAMILIES ARE THNKING OF IS A LAWSUIT.
    HOW MUCH MONEY WILL THEY RECEIVE IN THE END…
    WILL EMPLOYEES BE ABLE TO FEED THERE FAMILIES $$$$$..
    HOW WILL THIS EFFECT THERE JOBS AND LIVELY HOODS?

    WILL THE PRESS TAKE THIS A OPPORTUNITY TO EDUCATED THE PUBLIC:
    ABOUT POLICY RULES & PROCEDURE..
    WILL THEY MENTION THE GREAT THINGS THE SF ZOO HAS DONE FOR THE COMMUNITY…WILL THEY THINK TO MENTION TO RAISE FUNDS TO HELP THE ZOO..
    WILL THEY MENTION THEY MENTION HOW THIS INCIDENT WILL AFFECT
    MORE THAN JUST THE YOUNG MEN & THERE FAMILIES.

    NO THEY WILL CONTINUE THE NEGATIVE PUBLICITY ABOUT THE ZOO, IT’S DIRECTOR AND WHAT EVER ELSE THEY CAN FIND..

    THESE YOUNG MEN WILL NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THERE PART IN THIS SAD STORY…BUT, THERE FAMILIES WILL BE IN COURT POINTING THERE FINGERS IN BLAME$$$$..BUT, WILL THEY STEP UP AND BE ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHY THIS HAS HAPPENED..
    NOT A CHANCE!!!
    WILL EVIDENCE BE FOUND OF THERE ACCOUNTABLITY…MAYBE.MAYBE NOT

    WHAT IF THEY FOLLOWED THE RULES…

    BUT, IN TRUTH WE HAVE LOST A BEAUT

    THIS BEAUITFUL ENDANGERED TIGER IS DEAD..
    KILLED BY SFPD..ANIMAL CONTROL ?

  3. Stan Yodz permalink
    Saturday, December 29, 2007 10:22 am

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors should have researched Mr Manuel Mollinedos credentials (or lack of) for this position. Maybe it was just another minority hiring issue?
    (The real SF Zoo can be found outside the zoo property)
    Isn’t is strange no other Credentialed Zoo officials have commented or have supported this Zoo?

    Stan Yodz

  4. cmblake6 permalink
    Sunday, December 30, 2007 8:59 pm

    This man was so not qualified for the position. And there were specific recommendations for the enclosure that should have been met, and weren’t. Hmmm.

  5. CPT Shortcut permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 11:03 am

    Chile22,

    Why were police allowed to kill an endangered animal? Because it was chewing on living people you moron. Police officers don’t carry animal tranquilizers (although they should if they work in the ghetto). They did what had to be done.

    Why were the kids in the zoo after hours? They weren’t, the escape and attack happened at closing time.

    Why weren’t the kids with their family on your holy christmas day? Not everyones a christian you freak.

    –“the public and the press will not hold them accountable for there actions…And, they Damn well should be.. Taunting this animal, hanging, reaching ,dangling,and stepping on railings..” —

    So you are saying they deserve to die for pestering an animal? Quit smoking dope you hippie freak. The zoo screwed up and the bossman is responsible.

  6. Donna permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 11:43 am

    I’m sorry she didn’t get the other two. I hope the dead one is burning in hell. They should deport every member of all three’s families.

  7. Russ permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 12:06 pm

    …and before that, Mr. Mollinedo sneaked across the US border where he got a birth certificate and proclaimed he was an anchor baby in need of a job.

  8. U NO HOO permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 12:15 pm

    My dear Chile22,

    You said, “THIS ANIMAL WAS BORN IN CAPTIVITY! WHY WOULD SHE JUST LEAP OUT!”

    Don’t you listen to Rush Limbaugh?

    The tiger did what a tiger does.

  9. josh permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 12:52 pm

    This incident may be a left wing conspiracy to create news to distract the general voting public from the facts that the current batch of politicians are as useless as the last batch. We can call it tigergate..

  10. REGGIE92 permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 1:18 pm

    Who is this Chile22? I can’t believe what I just read. I have been a member of the Zoological Society for 18 years now and my wife and I visit the Milwaukee Zoo in Wisconsin several times a year. People are taunting the animals all the time. Iv’e enen been known to play around with the monkeys and have tried to get those lazy lions and tiger and bears to get up and move around. I am there to see them move around. People at zoo’s do this ALL the time. Thats why the WILD animals are locked up. You idiot!!!! We have been to the Tampa zoo a few times also and I can tell you the outdoor Ouranatang exibit is surrounded by people teasing the primates, again that is what happens at a zoo. Let me ask you Chile22 if you and your family were at a zoo and a tiger got out of a cage (let’s just assume you were not the one taunting it) and was facing you or one of your family members would you want the police to shoot the animal or just say nice kitty, nice kitty, don’t hurt that nice Chile22. Don’t chew up that nice litte baby girl that is in the stroller with Chile22. Then again maybe you would chose the latter.
    Another thing (for the record I am totally against illigal immigration) but what the hell does having fake identification have to do with anything? Who cares about what I.D. this kid might be carrying? And why does someone have to be at home on a certain time on Christmas. I didn’t go to my parents house and I didn’t have anyone over to mine. My wife and I had a pleasant evening alone. Not going home for Christmas certainly doesn’t mean you should be killed by a wild animal. Or maybe it does to Chile22. And then you ask why it is relative what jobs the director had before being hired at the zoo. This is very relative. I would like to know his experience in zoology. I think this is very relivent to what happened on that day. What kind of training does he have, what kind of people has he hired, what type of schooling did he get? All of these and many other questions should have been asked and answered to get a job of this importance.
    Chile22 you really should retract all of your comments. As a good American citizen I will forgive you. Happy New Year Chile22. Oh and please let us know what time we need to be home on New Years Day.

  11. sabrina permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 2:29 pm

    i wasn’t against closing zoos until i read reggie 92’s comments. yes, the tiger probably had to be killed when she attacked people. but the idea that it’s okay to taunt animals at the zoo, that this is just normal and okay and the way zoo patrons behave, is pretty appalling.

    if people are going to taunt them because they’re so bored and full of latent sadism, then zoos should be closed.

  12. REGGIE92 permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 2:54 pm

    If you think they are going to close down all of the zoos because of this then you are crazy. That is not going to happen. And let me tell you again. I see bus loads of children at these zoos. If you think they are not going to try to get a monkey make a funny face or make a tiger roar when that is what they are taught by reading books about these animals then do you are fooling yourself.

  13. foolio permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 4:13 pm

    affirmitive action at it’s best—mollinedo and the zoo should be sued for every dollar they have.

  14. Andy permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 8:03 pm

    The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is worried about the real issues facing the people of San Fran like how to silence Michael Savage or any other anti-invasion voices, keeping battleships out of their city, keeping military recruiters out of the city etc…. Those are the issues that the people of San Fran are worried about. You have the WORST leaders running such a great city. Stalin is alive and well in SF

  15. Galileo High School permalink
    Monday, December 31, 2007 10:43 pm

    What the f**k has this city come to? I grew up in San Francisco, moved to Southern California 8 years ago. Best move of my life. L.A. is becoming like a new version of San Francisco. That’s why I live in Orange County where people are allowed to carry guns (if you have a good reason). The gay and lesbians have more “balls” than some of the straight people of San Francisco. Let Savage free. I started to listen to him recently and he’s about the bravest heterosexual I’ve seen/heard on radio/TV.
    Go Lions!

  16. greg permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 6:08 am

    Whenever you bring in affirmative action hires you get low quality. They can’t function on the job with the effectiveness that a fully qualified person would have. I work in the university system and it is in a disgraceful state. No wonder we’re not the competitive country we used to be; all so some idiot with an ethnic name or darker skin can get a job. They would do less damage to our country if they simply sat on their fat behinds and collected welfare. As for the tiger, the cops had to kill it because it was standing right over one of the victims ready to finish the kill. It is the responsiblity of the cop to protect us over some animal. Anyone who thinks otherwise is suffering from a mental disorder (thanks Michael). Also – not everyone sits home on Christmas with their family all night. Many young people, after all day with the family, go visit friends on Christmas night. I know one thing, this Mollenedo character should lose his job and have to find a job in the private sector. Merry Christmas.

  17. Chilie 23 permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 10:23 am

    Chilie 22, You are an idiot!

  18. Ricardo permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 10:24 am

    The SF Zoo Director is guilty of malfeasance, as well as incompetence. This is someone who should be thrown out of the zoo business entirely, even though that may tick off the affirmative action freakazoids.

    This man doesn’t have the foggiest idea what he is doing.

  19. Chilie 24 permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 10:50 am

    So we have a consensus. Chilie 22 IS an Idiot. And EEO breeds incompetence.

  20. Tuesday, January 1, 2008 5:43 pm

    Just another numerous example of what EEO brings. That’s the best zoo director they could possibly find?

  21. PAUL permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 6:12 pm

    AS/USUAL/THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ARE NEVER ASKED OR ANSWERE..WHY ARE THE LION LEFT OUT(IN THERE HABITATE) AND NOT LOCKED UP/WHY IS THERE NO SECURITY CAMERAS/TO MONITOR/THESE DANGEROUS ANIMAL/WHY IS THERE NO INTERNAL SECURITY/WHERE TALKING ABOUT ANIMAL ‘S THAT OUR A THREAT THE HUMAN LIFE……WHAT IF THERE WAS A FIRE/…..TO MANY WHAT IF’S AND NO LOGICAL ANSWERS…BUSINESS AS USUAL /IN S.F……..AFFIRMITIVE ACTION ARM/PIT OF THE WORLD……GO TO YOUE ZOO WHO RUN THE TRAIN THESE DAY’S AND OLD WOMEN/YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT ANYONE THAT WORKED WITH HIGH PRESSURE STEAM WOULD HAVE TO HAVE SOME TRADE SKILL BACKGROUND?????NOT IN OUR NEW WORLD/MOST DOF THE PEOPLE YOU’LL FIND THERE WORKING /ARE FROM THE ELITE GROUPS OF THE CITY’S AFFIRIMTIVE ACTION POLICY……..WHITE OR THE STRAIT NEED NOT APPLY……….LOOK AT THE CONDITION OF THE ZOO/ THEY FINALLY MNAGE TO DO SOME THING ABOUT THERE SEWAGE OUTFALL CLOGING PROBLEM/AND THE MONEY FOR ENTRY FEE STHAT WAS SUPPOSE TO PAY THE WAY FOR MAJOR UPGRADE’S /HAS BEEN DLONG FLOST AND FOLDED INTO THE BEAUCRATIC/GRAFT POOL.!..AS USAUAL THAT ONE DAY FEE’S HAVE TURNED INTO AND EVERYDAY/PLUS PARKING FEE’S/WHERE THAT MONEY GOES WE WILL NEVER KNOW.?…..MY FREE CHILDHOOD ZOO/IS A RUN DOWN/ELITIST BOONDOGGLE/!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. llascitanul permalink
    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 8:13 pm

    Don’t beat up on poor Chile. Look at the spelling. He’s an idiot.

  23. smitty187 permalink
    Thursday, January 3, 2008 3:54 pm

    Interesting turn of events in the Tatiana slaying involve Mark Geragos being retained for the recovering Dhaliwal brothers. “Exploring legal options, including filing a lawsuit” were one of the comments he made. What makes it interesting is that Geragos is a criminal defense attorney, mostly high profile criminal matters (Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson,Susan McDougal) who is calling out the DA with a civil lawsuit before the investigation is complete.
    http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_7859833?nclick_check=1

    This may be in anticipation of criminal charges since, allegedly, a slingshot was found on the boys and an empty bottle of vodka in their car.
    http://www.nypost.com/seven/01012008/news/nationalnews/tiger_brothers_had_slingshots_480170.htm

    Sousa’s dad came out and was asking the boys to tell the truth and say something at least to him.

    Jack Hanna came firmly out on behalf of the tiger saying it is very suspicious to find 3 boys at a zoo on Christmas at closing unless they were up to something. He said in 40 years of visitors to all US zoos had resulted in 1 death from tiger and cited some 2.5 billion total visits over 40-50 years to cat exhibits. He said taunting was not harsh enough if the tiger was being pelted by objects via slingshot. He felt the tigers home was disrespected and Tatiana acted instinctively.
    I’m with Jack on this one. Does sound fishy on the 3 dudes at the zoo at closing on Christmas. Wonder who’s going to represent Tatiana? Jack? The Zoo? The DA? Patrick Fitzgerald, are you busy?
    This staying in the news is a silver lining for the plight of exotics at zoos. It’s also something I would hate to see copy catted a’la baby Jesus thefts.
    Maybe Tatiana will leave a legacy that is more protective and respectful of exotic and endangered animals.
    I don’t blame the zoo, I blame the antagonists.

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