SAN FRANCISCO – Under glowering skies Thursday, visitors started streaming back into the San Francisco Zoo, reopened nine days after a fatal tiger attack.
Within minutes, several visitors had placed bouquets and other mementos at a makeshift shrine just inside the zoo’s entrance.
A zoo spokeswoman said memorials would be welcomed both for Carlos Sousa Jr., the San Jose man who died, and for Tatiana, the 4-year-old Siberian tiger who was shot by police after mauling Sousa and his two friends, who survived.
“Tatiana was always friendly,” said Susan Pettit, a Santa Clara homemaker who gingerly set down photographs, a stuffed animal and flowers in the tiger’s memory. “I never saw her act aggressively even once.
“The big cats were like my own kids,” added Pettit, who has visited the zoo once a week for three years. “I loved them all.”
Police are investigating what prompted Tatiana to vault over the 12 1/2-foot barrier around her enclosure.
Mark Geragos, an attorney for the two brothers who survived the attack, has denied speculation that the victims provoked the animal.
A report in the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday quoted a visitor who said she saw a group of young men taunting lions the afternoon of the attack.
Jennifer Miller told the newspaper that she later recognized Sousa from newspaper photographs as being part of the group, although she said she did not see him participate in the teasing.