A tiger that mauled a zookeeper last year escaped from its pen at the San Francisco Zoo, killing one man and injuring two others before police shot it dead, authorities said.
The three men were in their 20s; they were together and were not zoo employees, San Francisco Police spokesman Steve Mannina said. They were attacked on Tuesday just after the 5pm closing time on the east end of the 51-hectare grounds.
It was unclear how the tiger escaped or how long it was on the loose. The approximately 136kg female Siberian tiger, named Tatiana, attacked a zookeeper in December last year during a public feeding, according to the zoo's director of animal care and conservation.
The zoo, which is open 365 days a year, was evacuated immediately after the attack was reported.
The two injured men were in critical but stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Lieutenant Ken Smith said.
"This is a tragic event for San Francisco," Smith said. "We pride ourselves in our zoo, and we pride ourselves in tourists coming and looking at our city."
Authorities did not believe there were any other people attacked, but because it was dark they could not be certain. Investigators remained on the scene and Smith said a thorough sweep of the grounds would be conducted in the morning.
The first attack happened right outside the tiger's enclosure -- the victim died on the scene. A group of four responding officers came across his body when they made their way into the dark zoo grounds, Mannina said.
Then they saw the second victim about 275m away.
The man was sitting on the ground, blood running from gashes in his head. Tatiana sat next to him. Suddenly, the cat attacked the man again, Mannina said.
The officers approached the animal, bearing their handguns. Tatiana started moving in their direction. Several of the officers then fired, killing the animal.
Although no new visitors were let in after 5pm, the grounds were not scheduled to close until an hour later, and there were between 20 and 25 people still on site when the attacks happened, zoo officials said.
There were five tigers at the zoo -- three Sumatrans, and two Siberians. Officials initially worried that four tigers had escaped, but they soon learned that only one had escaped its pen, Mannina said.
In December last year, the animal reached through the cage's iron bars and badly lacerated the zookeeper's arm. The zoo's Lion House was temporarily closed during an investigation.
California's Division of Occupation Safety and Health blamed the zoo for the assault and imposed an US$18,000 penalty, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that he was deeply saddened by the incident and said a thorough investigation is under way.
Following last year's attack, the zoo added customized steel mesh over the bars, built in a feeding shoot and increased the distance between the public and the cats.
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