Why kill the tiger?
August 29, 2012 6:26 AM   Subscribe

This report from a few days ago got me thinking. When a dangerous zoo animal, like a tiger or a lion, kills a (negligent?) caretaker or escapes and kills another human, why is it (usually?) killed? I know that humans kill dogs that have bitten someone, but these animals are in a cage anyway, so I don't get it. They're in the cage to prevent them from killing humans, right? So what's the point? Not vengeance, surely?
posted by Skyanth to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well in this case and in many others This one famously the animals are killed while they are still an active danger.

Often times it's an issue of liability: if an animal has killed someone once, and you don't destroy it, the next time it kills someone your zoo/etc will be sued into the ground. Because it is a 'killer animal".

What I don't know is if animals who kill people really do lose their fear or respect for humans and are therefore more likely to kill again. That is often given as a reason, but I don't know if it is a fact or assumption.
posted by French Fry at 6:36 AM on August 29, 2012

I can think of a couple off the top of my head:

1) If the animal is loose and attacking people, it may be quicker, easier, and safer to kill it, rather than to get a tranq gun with the appropriate dosage loaded, shoot it, and then wait for it to fall asleep.

2) If the animal has been known to attack its handlers, it is unlikely that humans will be considered safe in its presence in the future. Both from a personal safety standpoint and an insurance standpoint, I can't imagine asking a keeper to go in and feed a tiger that has previously killed someone.

3) If it is a species that can carry rabies, it must be tested to see if it could have passed the disease on to people it may have injured or otherwise been in contact with, and that test can only be performed post-mortem.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:38 AM on August 29, 2012

With bears in the wild it's often cited as a sort of 'once they get one kill, they start to think of people as prey' situation, but like French Fry, I don't know if that's actual knowledge or just something everyone thinks they know. I've always sort of suspected it's more an issue of 'once they get one kill, people start thinking of themselves as prey, and that makes the people uncomfortable, so it's better to keep the people happy and kill the bear'.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:42 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: these animals are in a cage anyway, so I don't get it

No, these animals have escaped from their cage. That's how they killed people in the first place. They're not killed when they're not loose.
posted by Dasein at 6:44 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: They aren't always put down. According to that link Tilikum was involved in three death incidents and he's still going strong.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:48 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Read your own link:

"The tiger was then shot dead by the director of the zoo through a skylight, before it could get to public areas."

"Before it could get to public areas" seems reasonable justification.
posted by three blind mice at 6:56 AM on August 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

They're in the cage to prevent them from killing humans, right? So what's the point?

Well, I'm really not always sure that this happens. But it's worth pointing out that even animals in cages regularly interact with humans. Zookeepers have to go in there to clean the cage, if nothing else, and zoo animals receive regular veterinary care.

In short, it's not just the public that we're worried about, it's the professionals who work with the animals.
posted by valkyryn at 6:58 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the recent Denali bear mauling case, they shot the bear because it was actively defending its kill and Rangers couldn't recover the body.

One of the park officials interviewed on NPR was asked about policy on killing bears that attack people and he suggested it's not an automatic death sentence. Here's the relevant quote. Anderson is the Ranger, Block the interviewer.

ANDERSON: The park has a bear management plan. If a bear were only to attack a visitor and maul them, not kill them, and then back off and leave the area,we would monitor the bear. We wouldn't dispatch it. But the plan is fairly clear. When a bear attacks a person and then identifies it as a food source and, as in this case, he killed the person out on the gravel bar and then dragged him 150 yards into the brush where he partially buried him after having fed upon him for a period of time and then sat on that cache and wouldn't allow any other animals or humans to approach them without a fear of attack.

BLOCK: So this killing indicates something about possible future behavior?

ANDERSON: There have been documented incidents in the past, in other parks in the country, of bears that kill hikers or backpackers or people in the park and then feed upon them, continuing to do so. And we're not prepared to take that kind of risk here at Denali, given the proximity to hundreds of thousands of visitors.
posted by Naberius at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: As Jack Hanna himself kept saying after that Zanesville, Ohio mess, you not only need to have the proper animal tranquilizer on hand with the right gun to shot it, you also need to hit the animal in specific areas of their body for maximum effect --- and even if you have the correct drug and weapon AND your sharpshooter hits the target, even in the best cases tranqs don't take affect immediately like a gunshot does. You still need to consider the animal's location and the possibility of further carnage before the drug knocks them out, and unfortunately for this animal, it was loose and out of its habitat.
posted by easily confused at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: even in the best cases tranqs don't take affect immediately like a gunshot does

And in most cases, they make the animal scared and pissed, so they are primed for mayhem until the drug takes effect.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:05 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This long and very interesting Slate article goes into a lot of detail about the decision to kill a Yellowstone killer bear, after the attack was long over and the bear was captured.
"The euthanization of the bear known as “the Wapiti sow” was the culmination of a series of horrifying events that had gripped Yellowstone for months, and alarmed rangers, visitors, and the conservation biologists tasked with keeping grizzly bears safe. In separate incidents in July and August, grizzlies had killed hikers in Yellowstone, prompting a months-long investigation replete with crime scene reconstructions and DNA analysis, and a furious race to capture the prime suspect. The execution of the Wapiti sow opens a window on a special criminal justice system designed to protect endangered bears and the humans who share their land. It also demonstrates the difficulty of judging animals for crimes against us. The government bear biologists who enforce grizzly law and order grapple with the impossibility of the task every day. In the most painful cases, the people who protect these sublime, endangered animals must also put them to death."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:47 PM on August 29, 2012

Just want to add that dangerous animals are typically worked protected contact in reputable zoos, so caretakers/vets do not go in with the animal, ever, unless it is completely chemically sedated. I personally know of a bear in a zoo who had killed someone before he came to the zoo, but since keepers would absolutely never go in with him or any other bear, this is not a problem (although disconcerting certainly).
posted by tweedle at 8:02 PM on June 24, 2013

« Older Knee feels fine now. How long should I wait before...   |   All together now: "Eat the Rich!" Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.