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Physicist Calculates Trajectory of Tiger At SF Zoo 713

KentuckyFC writes "Is it really possible for a 350-pound tiger to leap a 12.5-foot barrier from 33 feet away? (Said another way: a 159-kg tiger, a 3.8 m barrier, and 10 m away.) A physicist at Northeastern University has done the math, a straightforward problem in ballistics, and the answer turns out to be yes (abstract on the physics arXiv). But I guess we already knew that following the death of Carlos Souza at the paws of Tatiana, a Siberian Tiger he had allegedly been taunting at San Francisco zoo at the end of last year."
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Physicist Calculates Trajectory of Tiger At SF Zoo

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  • by ta bu shi da yu ( 687699 ) * on Friday February 01, 2008 @10:44AM (#22260708) Homepage
    Surely someone would have calculated how far away a tiger needed to be from the public? Or doesn't anyone know how far a tiger can leap at SF zoo?
  • Inaccuracies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sifi ( 170630 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:00AM (#22260946)
    Looking at this diagram: [] You can see that it is 33ft along and 2.5ft up for starters. (12ft is from the bottom of the moat, not from where the tiger jumped).

    Then the tiger's centre of mass is probably about 2.5ft up anyway so it more about being able to jump 33ft flat.

    Also speed doesn't translate into distance in this simplistic way either: if it did humans would be almost able to jump the distance (max speed = 26.25mph) which is close as damm it to the 26.7mph required.
  • by ckhorne ( 940312 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:01AM (#22260966)
    The numbers don't tell the entire story. Just because something can go 27mph doesn't mean it can necessarily project itself over the fence at a given projectory. The worlds fastest humans can go 27mph, but I'll put money against their ability to jump over a 12.5' fence; the world high jump record is 8'. Tigers and people are built differently for sure, but I'm not sure how the math applied in this document applies to animals when so many other factors are at play.
  • A lot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:03AM (#22261022) Homepage
    Wanna bet the tiger would still be in its cage if these drunken idiots had decided NOT to shoot it with a slingshot? The only tragedy here was the tiger having to be killed.
  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:21AM (#22261280) Homepage Journal

    the 12-footx30-foot distance is supposed to remind you that this cat means business

    Except, apparently, the Zoo knew that the 12 foot wall was four feet short of recommended guidelines for containing a healthy man-eating tiger in the presence of the general public. Also, the Zoo should quite rationally be fully aware that in any sample of the general public, there will be jackasses who would like to taunt said cats, and also vulnerable people who are completely innocent nearby, should the tiger still be hungry after eating said jackass.

  • by bluesangria ( 140909 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:33AM (#22261490)
    I was watching a Discovery channel show on some guy who was raising two tigers in a park preserve to be eventually released in the wild. To avoid incurring any dependencies on humans in the tigers, he kept away from them as much as possible, only associating enough to feed them and care for any injuries. To train them to hunt, he would make the tigers chase a deer or goat carcass dragged behind a car. The tigers were rewarded with their "kill" once they managed to get a good bite on the carcass to hold it. Afterwards, to up their training, he simply released several live prey animals into the park (goats, gazelles, etc.) and let the tiger's instincts take over. One thing that impressed me, and that they did not know before studying these tigers, is that tigers tend to go on "killing frenzies". Without being hungry or being threatened, tigers will simply run from one prey animal to the next, slaughtering it, taking a bite or two, then rushing to find another. They are, quite simply, relishing their power as a predator. After the end of a frenzy, the two tigers had slaughtered almost 40 prey animals in a short while.
    I don't know whether or not those boys taunted the tiger, and honestly, I'm not sure it would have made a difference. But I'm fairly certain the tiger would not have "settled down" after only killing a couple of people, not when the place was filled with fearful, slow two-legged animals acting like "prey". Welcome to the world of wild animals.


  • The SF Zoo? Hah! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:37AM (#22261554) Journal
    This is an example of the tragedy of privatization. The SF used to be a public zoo. It also used to be a good zoo. Then it was privatized, and the company cut costs and corners. In the 90s, zookeepers were caught stealing branches off of people's eucalyptus trees because there was no budget for koala food. It would not surprise me to learn that the zoo's management knew all about the potential problem and refused to do anything based on cost.
  • by Tanuki64 ( 989726 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @11:40AM (#22261598)
    I once had a guided-tour through a German zoo. When we came to the tigers the guide told us that the tigers in theory were able to leap over the barriers. According to the guide many animals in that zoo were able to escape when they really wanted. However, animals are similar to most people in some aspects. Life is good in the zoo and within the known areas. What is outside is unknown, perhaps scary, so why bother? Looks like the taunting was enough reason to bother for that tiger.
  • by penguin_dance ( 536599 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:04PM (#22261978)

    The asian elephant in this is about 12' tall. Back story: A tiger escaped from a preserve in India (Kaziranga National Park) and had killed a couple of farm animals. She was training her cubs to hunt. Rangers had found the cubs and took them (which I find incredibly stupid because now she's stressed and looking for them). Riding elephants, they found the female in the brush and tried to tranquilize her, but the dart missed. What happened next [] should give you and idea what the jerks in the SF zoo saw.

    The elephant trainer survived, but was badly wounded.

  • by Zenaku ( 821866 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:15PM (#22262132)
    What kind of enclosure would you actually need to keep an enranged and adrenaline fueled tiger in though.

    One that is several feet taller than this one was would have done it. Adrenaline isn't magic, and its performance boost is finite. It obeys the laws of physics like everything else.

    The fact that the tiger was enraged doesn't mean that no cage could have held her. The sort of unlimited rage bonus your question seems to imply only comes into play if the tiger has been exposed to gamma rays. ;)
  • Distance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by simpl3x ( 238301 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:06PM (#22263036)
    I worked at a zoo in Chicago, and the Siberian Tigers were a concern. The distance between the habitat and the rest of us, seemed fine, would probably stand up to calculations, but never quite seemed enough for an animal bent on escape. When the things arrived at the zoo, I was photographing them, and the shear power of the roar was simply amazing. Standing outside of a steel box with the things in them didn't diminish the fact that they were there.

    One night I was watching some European wolves pace around there cage, when one caught my eye. Eye contact bad! It walked slowly down the exhibit and launched at the wall hitting the top. I left quickly... The Mexican wolves were rumored to escape often.

    People want to see the animals, and like everything else in this world it is a balance of risks. It's bad enough that the animals appear so sedate, but compound that with a realistic safe distance, and it would be a recipe for disaster. There was a reason they used bars back in the day.
  • by Guysmiley777 ( 880063 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:43PM (#22263648)
    The autopsy done on the tiger showed shattered and broken claws from scrambling over the concrete. The tiger didn't just do some anime style super-leap, she got claws on the edge and pulled herself up, shattering claws in the process. This was not a happy tiger that these 3 douchebags happened to get caught by. She was pissed off and looking to confront her tormentors.
  • by spun ( 1352 ) <> on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:48PM (#22263720) Journal
    I'm saying the tiger escape is part of a pattern that has occurred ever since the zoo was privatized. It's the tragedy of privatization: people can simply run a business or resource into the ground, take the profits and invest them in the next looting spree. With publicly owned resources, people all share the resource and want it to last because they enjoy it. Private ownership encourages fraud, short sighted cost cutting, and externalizing every expense you can.

    Back when the zoo was built, no one knew the enclosure height was a problem. Now, with a private, profit driven entity controlling the zoo, you might think they have an incentive to avoid lawsuits. But what they really have an incentive to do is profit, and if that means letting people die because lawsuits are cheaper than building a replacement enclosure, then so be it. With a public zoo like we have here in Albuquerque, they are more worried about educating the public, conserving species diversity, and yes, their image, than they are about making money.

    Sorry to challenge your free market ideology like that, but privatization sucks because profit over everything as a motive sucks. Modern economic research shows that most non-sociopaths are driven more by ideals of fairness and reciprocity than personal gain, so they will not try to profit over all else. What our system actually does is encourage sociopaths.
  • Very Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daniel422 ( 905483 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:01PM (#22263934) Journal
    Am I the only one who finds it fascinating that the ONLY ones the tiger directly attacked were the 3 guys who were taunting it? That it specifically hunted down the 3 individuals who pissed it off? And they had moved away from the area...
    Who says animals are stupid?
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @03:06PM (#22265004) Journal
    The number of tigers in the wild has been declining rapidly, and if you want real numbers check reputable sources. Last I heard it was under 3000, and it might be a lot fewer by now, and general estimates are that by 20 year from now they'll be extinct in the wild.

    The number of tigers in zoos is about 4000.

    As many as 3000 tigers may be in farms in China, being raised to sell as traditional medicine for people whose penises aren't big enough or who think their bones will make them stronger.

    The number of tigers that are kept as pets by Americans is about 6000. There are animal activists like Tippi Hedren trying to make laws against keeping tigers as pets, because almost nobody who has pet tigers has enough space and resources to let them live like tigers need to, especially the occasional drug dealer in some apartment building in New York who wanted to out-macho his competitors' pit bulls. She's well-intentioned, but the species needs all the genetic diversity it can get, even though tigers aren't meant to live like house-cats.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @04:19PM (#22266012)
    Don't tell me you, at 17, (or one of your friends) never did something silly without thinking it through. These guys could have been decent people besides this one bit of silliness (for that is all it was - they had not murdered anyone and thus it could be said they deserved to die). As for stupidity, I doubt they would have believed that the tiger would be able, or even sufficiently bothered enough, to jump over the fence and kill them.

    Spare me the sympathy for morons. I never did anything that dumb when I was young, and anyone who does deserves to die. Any idiot knows you don't taunt dangerous wild animals, even if there's a fence. In fact, it takes a rather sick and twisted individual to taunt a caged animal IMO, so I'm extra happy they got mauled for it.

    Again people do stupid things every day, especially teenagers, it doesn't mean they deserve to die.

    Yes, it does. We need less stupid people in the world, and less stupid actions. Maybe if people had to pay the price for their stupid actions, they'd think more carefully before committing them.

    Perhaps you would have been happy to repeat your view to this kid's grieving family? Perhaps you would have felt the same way if it was your child?

    I wouldn't raise a child to be that stupid or twisted. I'd be happy to repeat my view to this moron's stupid family, who probably had a big hand in making him the person he was. I know I was raised a lot better than to get drunk and high and then go taunt caged animals. Unfortunately, it seems that the popular American view is that we should raise our kids to be spoiled brats who don't think about others and only care about themselves, and that's exactly what we saw in this incident. Good riddance to the moron, and too bad the others didn't get killed before the cops got there.
  • Dont be an idiot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Friday February 01, 2008 @04:26PM (#22266118) Homepage

    If an animal in a zoo (or anywhere else for that matter) becomes a mankiller, that's a human's fault, not the animal's.
    Fair enough. I'm with you so far...

    The animal shouldn't die because of some asshole human. If it kills other people, that's just too bad; they're 6.5 billion of us. We can afford to lose a few.
    Sorry, now you lost me. I think you'll likely disagree if one of those "few" is either yourself or someone you love. It sickens me to think that your regard for human life is a function ofhow many humans are out there.

    It doesn't matter *how* you create the mankilling tiger. Yes, so sad for the tiger, but you can be damn sure I'll choose for the tiger to die over any human life.

    And contrary to popular thought, this wasn't the first time the tiger mauled somebody. It had mauled one of the zoo staff prior to being taunted by this punk kid. It's fair to say that this previous incident lowered the tiger's threshold for going on a kill frenzy.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas