The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today’s winner is Manuel A. Mollinedo. He gets the award for the following.

SAN FRANCISCO – The director of the zoo where a teenager was killed by an escaped tiger acknowledged Thursday that the wall around the animal’s pen was just 12 1/2 feet high — well below the height recommended by the accrediting agency for the nation’s zoos.

San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo also admitted that it was becoming increasingly clear the 350-pound Siberian tiger leaped or climbed out of its open-air enclosure, perhaps by grabbing onto a ledge.

“She had to have jumped,” he said. “How she was able to jump that high is amazing to me.” Mollinedo said investigators have ruled out the theory the tiger escaped through a door behind the exhibit.

According to the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the walls around a tiger exhibit should be at least 16.4 feet high. But Mollinedo said the nearly 70-year-old wall was 12 feet, 5 inches, with what he described as a “moat” 33 feet across.

He said safety inspectors had examined the 1940 wall and never raised any red flags about its size.

“When the AZA came out and inspected our zoo three years ago, they never noted that as a deficiency,” he said. “Obviously now that something’s happened, we’re going to be revisiting the actual height.”

Mollinedo said the “moat” contained no water, and has never had any. He did not address whether that affected the tiger’s ability to get out.

On Wednesday, the zoo director said the wall was 18 feet high and the moat 20 feet wide. Based on the earlier, incorrect height estimate, animal experts had expressed disbelief that a tiger in captivity could have made such a spectacular leap.

As almost always, it takes a tragedy for proper safety precautions to be put in place. Whether its airplanes, traffic lights, or walls at a zoo. One person died in San Francisco compared to the 270 in Chicago in 1979, but it is still a tragedy for the friends and family of the victim. The director’s wrong statement about the height of the wall points to him either being 1- incompetent or 2- a liar. It don’t matter which, somebody died as a result of this. That’s why I name Manuel A. Mollinedo today’s Knucklehead of the Day.

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