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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

S.F. Zoo Unsure When -- If Ever -- Last Time Was That Someone Jumped Into Animal Cage. But, Worldwide, This Rarely Works Out So Well.

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge killerbears.gif
Most of you by now have probably heard about 21-year-old homeless man Kenneth Herron, who somehow managed to invade the San Francisco Zoo's grizzly bear enclosure and live out Stephen Colbert's worst nightmare.

Zoo officials haven't yet figured out how Herron managed to enter the bears' lair -- and, so far as I can tell, local news reports haven't asked or answered a very relevant question: When, if ever, was the last time something like this happened here in San Francisco? We know about animals soaring free from their enclosures to terrorize zoo visitors -- but how about the other way 'round?

San Francisco Zoo public relations manager Gwendolyn Tornatore gave us two less than satisfying answers: A. She doesn't know, and; B. The zoo isn't doing any interviews for now on man-enters-bear-lair subjects. She also noted that she isn't the zoo's spokesperson, but its public relations manager -- but added that the spokesperson wouldn't answer this question either.

Hmmm. In any event, people climbing into bear enclosures at the zoo happens more often than you might think, worldwide. Intuitively, it rarely ends well:

  • An adorable Giant Panda in Beijing mauls a zoo patron -- the third time it has bitten a visitor;
  • A polar bear mauled a teenager who got too close to his cage at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage -- not quite two months after mauling another zoo visitor. 

Even for animals, bears are no fun at the zoo:

In conclusion, glancing at the life story of the transient Herron -- violent crime, almost certain mental illness, the trials of homelessness -- one would be hard-pressed to describe him as "lucky." Oddly enough, surviving this self-imposed ordeal without a scratch was just about the only way he could earn that title. 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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