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Glazer: When it was ‘jackass’ day at the zoo

POSTED: February 5, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Looks like there's another contender for the Darwin Award.

The Darwins, for those who don't know, are tongue-in-cheek awards given each year to those who do the most to improve the human gene pool ... by leaving it. There are idiot crooks who try to creep in via chimneys and are discovered months later.

My personal favorite is the guy who tried to steal gas from a camper but hooked his syphon hose up to the waste tank instead. I'll bet he's still trying to get the taste out of his mouth.

On Christmas Day, two young men were mauled and one killed by a Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo. The tiger was subsequently shot and killed. Gradually, the rest of the story is emerging. One of the surviving victims has admitted that they climbed the enclosure fence, taunting the tiger. A partial shoeprint matching one of the victims was found atop the fence railing.

A witness has reported seeing two of the victims roaring and making aggressive motions toward the tiger, so much so that nearby children were frightened. And, for the coupe de grace, a vodka bottle and marijuana was found in the victims' car and all three had both substances in their bloodstreams. Liquid courage, anyone?

Well, you don't have to be the sharpest crayon in the box to realized that it's not a particularly good idea to antagonize a full-grown tiger. I contribute it to the whole "Jackass" mentality that's become part of youth culture. You've probably seen the YouTube videos of kids doing incredibly stupid stunts: dancing atop moving cars and performing fiery antics in attempts to imitate the MTV show "Jackass." Me, I think the name says it all.

We've had our Amazon parrot, Spanky, for 12 years. The first question visitors always ask is "Does he bite?" The answer is always, "Yes, he does. He's a parrot. That's what parrots do."

He's sweet and talkative but he also has an innate need to periodically chomp down on something pliable like a finger or an ear. Multiply that need by about a million and the you have the danger presented by the big cats. Anyone who doesn't respect that is, well, a jackass.

I know I sound callous toward the human victims in this case. It's tragic, certainly, but it's also the result of man's bottomless capacity for stupidity. Forrest Gump was right: "Stupid is as stupid does."

The tiger was being ... well, a tiger. The humans, it appears, were being alcohol-addled, testosterone-fueled idiots. Also, the officials at the zoo seem to have failed to bring the enclosure up to current industry standards. There's plenty of blame to go around.

We all know how this is going to play out. Mark Geragos, erstwhile attorney of wife and unborn baby killer Scott Peterson, has elbowed his way to the front of the lawyer line. There will be lawsuits upon lawsuits. All the victims, including the family of the young man who was killed, will get a little money and their 15 minutes of fame. There will be endless debates over the safety and viability of zoos.

And periodically some substance-impaired jerk will decide to show off in front of his or her friends by antagonizing an elephant or an alligator or a hippopotamus and the whole cycle will begin again. Jackasses, every last one of them.

Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears frequently and on gainesvilletimes.com. First published Jan. 25, 2008.



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