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Dr. Rochelle Dicker answers a question during a news conference at San Francisco General Hospital on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007. Dicker, a trauma surgeon, worked on the two survivors of a tiger attack at San Francisco Zoo on Christmas night.
Family and friends of Carlos Sousa Jr. gathered at his mother's San Jose apartment today, devastated and angry that he was mauled to death by a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day.

His parents said they didn't know the 17-year-old junior at Independence High School was the victim of the mauling until the San Francisco coroner's office called this morning.

"I can't believe it," said father, Carlos Sousa Sr. "I just want to wake up tomorrow and start all over again. This never should have happened."

Carlos Jr. had spent Monday with his father and had been expected to be at his mother's for dinner. His parents are divorced. Marilza Sousa had a dinner of black beans and rice waiting for her son.

His parents figured their son - who didn't have a cell phone - was with friends. But they began calling his friends at 10 p.m. Christmas night, but none of them seemed to know where he was.

Carlos Sr. said he didn't know the names of the other two men injured in the tiger attack that ended when San Francisco police shot and killed Tatiana, a 350-pound Siberian tiger.

The city's police are treating the city's zoo as a crime scene as they investigate whether the Siberian tiger that attacked Sousa and two other young men, also reportedly from San Jose, somehow got loose through human activity or escaped on its own.

"The purpose of the criminal investigation is to see if the tiger was able to get out on its own or whether there was human involvement," said San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong.

There is no security camera in the area that might have captured what transpired, she said. Officers are interviewing everyone who was at the zoo Christmas night.

"We are not exactly clear on what transpired," said the zoo's director Manuel Mollinedo.

Sometime shortly after 5 p.m., the tiger escaped from her fortified grotto, which is surrounded by a 20-foot-wide concrete moat and a 18-foot-high wall. Mollinedo said he had never seen the tiger "down in the lower moat area," which is not filled with water. .

Once free, Tatiana immediately attacked Carlos, who died at the scene.

Calls started flooding 911 at around 5:07 p.m.

Police arriving at the scene found Tatiana attacking another man near the zoo's Terrace Cafe, about 300 yards from the large-cat grotto. They hollered for it to stop and then shot it dead when the tiger began to move toward them, Fong said.

Fong said she did not know how many shots were fired.

Police and hospital officers have not released the names of the two men who were injured in the attack, but KTVU is reporting that all three men are from San Jose.

The two survivors under went hours of surgery to clean their wounds, San Francisco General Hospital's Rochelle Dicker said.

Hospital officials said they are most worried about the possibility of infection and have put the young men, reportedly brothers ages 19 and 23, on antibiotics.

But, both men are doing "quite well," she said, crediting the quickness of their arrival to the hospital and their youth with their speedy recovery. Neither should suffer lasting physical effects of the attack, she said.

The zoo was closed today after the attack, almost exactly a year after Tatiana attacked her keeper during a feeding.

Officials made the decision to close the zoo "out of respect for the victims." Investigation into the incident continues. It is the first time that an escaped animal killed a visitor at a zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, officials with the non-profit association said.

Mollinedo said he has invited staff members from other zoo accredited by the association to help him review the cat enclosures, which will remain closed until public and animal safety can be insured. He said the rest of the zoo may reopen Thursday.

A statement on the AZA Web site says under the mandatory accreditation standards, the San Francisco Zoo must provide a thorough report of the incident to its independent Accreditation Commission, "which will review it and determine any actions that need to be taken. We will not speculate on what action might be taken until the facts are fully reviewed."

"AZA-accredited zoos are safe. Until this incident, there had not been a visitor fatality resulting from an animal escape at an AZA-accredited zoo. AZA mandatory accreditation standards require safety and emergency protocols that go beyond federal, state or local requirements. Regular safety training and annual emergency drills are required by these mandatory accreditation standards."

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals today called on the zoo to close its tiger exhibit.

"There are some species - including tigers - that simply do not belong in captivity because of their extraordinarily complicated physical and psychological needs," PETA captive exotic animal specialist Lisa Wathne said in a letter to Mollinedo. "Scientists at Oxford University have concluded that big cats and other wide-roaming predators become neurotic when they are confined. No 'educational' program is worth sacrificing animals' well-being."

According to the zoo's Web site, the zoo's two Siberian tigers, Tony and Tatiana, lived in an outdoor enclosure near the Lion House. The zoo also has three Sumatran tigers at the west end of the Lion House. Both types of tigers are classified as endangered species.

Tatiana's enclosure was reinforced after the cat's first attack two days before Christmas last year.

In the attack last year, Tatiana seriously injured keeper Lori Komejan's arm during a regular afternoon feeding at the Lion House.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health later ruled the zoo was responsible for that incident, blaming poor training and the way the tiger enclosures were designed.

Zoo officials closed the Lion House for renovations and did not open it until September. Tatiana's enclosure, which she shared with Tony, was fortified after the 2006 attack, Jenkins said.

Safety measures can only help so much when dealing with predators such as tigers, said Chris Austria, an animal trainer who has worked with tigers at Marine World in Vallejo and with bears at the San Francisco Zoo. The attacks likely had little to do with hunger, he said.

"San Francisco Zoo has always been very safety-conscious and well-trained," he said. "But when they're working with wild animals, they're very hard to control. When they escape their habitats, they can be very aggressive."

The association's accreditation standards also will require that the San Francisco Zoo provide a thorough report to its independent Accreditation Commission, which will review it and determine any actions that need to be taken. The association sends a team of investigators to inspect accredited facilities once every five years.

The U.S. Department of Agricultural, which regulates some facilities that work with live animals, will also investigate to attack, spokesman Jim Rogers said. The regulations that the department works with aren't specific, saying that outdoor fences less than 8 feet high enclosing dangerous animal like tigers must be approved by an administrator.


Bay Area News Group Staff Writers Sean Webby, Mark Gomez and Matt Krupnick contributed to this report. Contact Barbara Feder Ostrov at bfeder@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5064. Tatiana, Siberian tiger Born: June 27, 2003 at the Denver Zoo Weight: about 350 pounds History: Tatiana was donated to San Francisco Zoo in December 2005 On Dec. 22, 2006, Tatiana attacked and injured trainer Lori Komejan shortly after a public feeding. Tatiana used her claws to pull Komejan closer to her cage, biting her right hand and leaving deep gashes in both arms. California's Division of Occupation Safety and Health found the San Francisco Zoo at fault for the incident.