Sunday, February 13, 2011

Breaking Points

I received the following story in an email a couple of weeks ago. I don't think I could summarize the story any better, so I will quote what I was told. It refers to an incident at Palmetto Ridge High School in Florida on January 24:
On Monday of this week a 14 year old student killed a 16 year old during a fight when they got off the bus. Stabbed the older boy some six times after being hit in the face and gut at least four times. Why he retaliated as he did is now coming out. The older, and much bigger, boy had been bullying the other kid all school year, including beating on him a whole lot. It wasn't a secret either; other students as well as the 14-year-old had told the school authorities, who, of course, did nothing. Even the bus driver had reported attacks, and nothing was done. The younger kid's parents knew, they reported it, nothing was done. Seems the bully was a BMOC, important jock, and his parents didn't want anything done. So, nothing was done. The 14-year-old even tried to not go to school, but because of Florida law his parents had to get him there or they'd be jailed. Two weeks ago the savagely bullied kid refused to go, the cops were called, they took him to school in cuffs. That afternoon the bully hammered on him again. All this was in the reports, all of which were ignored studiously by the school authorities. Then came Monday.

BTW, all of the management of that high school are now in deep doo-doo. There will be changes over there. From what I've heard some 95% of the student body are very happy about that.

photo by Leslie CohelanNow, what has that got to do with the general topic at hand here? It seems to me that there are definite parallels between that story, and the story of Tatiana, the tiger at the San Francisco Zoo that the world heard about in December 2007.

The main question surrounding Tatiana was whether she was provoked by the three people she attacked. A couple of weeks ago I took the author of the book "Fear of the Animal Planet" to task for not presenting a convincing overview of Tatiana's story--anyone researching the story would be knee-deep in conflicting accounts. Now, the Associated Press has provided a key piece to the puzzle. It took a Freedom of Information Act request to get this piece of information, because it had been stricken from the official record. As reported in today's Washington Post:
"With my knowledge of tiger behavior, I cannot imagine a tiger trying to jump out of its enclosure unless it was provoked," Laurie Gage, a tiger expert who investigated the incident for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wrote in a Dec. 27, 2007, draft of her report.

The documents, provided to AP three years after a Freedom of Information Act request, offer the first public glimpse into the findings of the federal investigation. Whether the tiger was provoked has long been a point of contention.

Gage's statement about provocation was stricken from the final version of the report because it was "irrelevant from an Animal Welfare Act enforcement standpoint," said David Sacks, a spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees the nation's zoos.
The Lafayette Journal & Courier has more to the story. The tiger killed one of the tormentors, then,
After sitting with its prey for a short time, Gage wrote that Tatiana likely followed the Dhaliwals' blood trail for about 300 yards to where it resumed attacks. Photographs show blood-smeared asphalt where the tiger apparently dragged Sousa's body.

"After a kill, I find it interesting the tiger would leave a kill to go after something else unless there were a compelling reason," Gage wrote. "The tiger passed exhibits with warthogs which it ignored as it followed [the blood trail] of the two brothers to the Terrace Cafe outside the dining area."

USDA's investigators said they found "some sticks, foreign to the exhibit, and at least one pine cone inside the tiger exhibit indicating that someone may have thrown these items into the enclosure at the tigers."
So, the evidence is now clearer to support author Jason Hribal's contention that the tiger was provoked into action and that her actions were directed and focused. Not mysterious and random ("Keep in mind these are animals: Who knows why they do anything?" said one of the 'victims' attorneys).

Sympathy runs high for the boy in the first story, who was provoked past his breaking point. He will receive a fair trial. In supposedly less enlightened times, Tatiana would have been given similar consideration.

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