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Rhinos, tigers, and chickens, oh my! SF's Wild Kingdom. . .
Baby Gorilla

San Francisco - a place where chickens go free, gorillas are aloof, tiger maulings are blithely replaced by tiger promos and some guy, clearly not learning from my past mistakes, tries to scale a black rhino enclosure fence at the troubled SF Zoo.

Even Gavin Newsom can't cut the budget for crazy, it seems.

Our story begins, as it must, at the Zoo, scene of past mismanagement and death. "How soon is too soon for the SFZOO to use tigers in their ads?" asks an SFist headline. Well, let's see. Carlos Sousa, Jr. was killed by a tiger that leapt over its inadequate moat Christmas Day, 2007. So the answer to the question would be a little over 11 months. Mourning is over and Zoo officials have jumped into the cold afternoon of self-promotion by creating lamppost banner promos titled "Critter Quest", with a giant picture of what looks to be a tiger's face morphed with features from a few other animals. (It looks like some kind of punk-era cat).


The Governor Rod Blagojevich sensitivity award goes to the Zoo for that one.

Then there was the hapless goof who hopped a fence Monday and approached the rhinos, one of the world's most dangerous species. A Zoo official speculated the man wanted a picture up close or, according to the original Bay City News story, "was attempting to retrieve a peacock feather." So, a Marin resident, apparently.

He "just did a real stupid thing," said the Zoo's Carl Friedman, "and it seems to me he might have realized that." Yeah. I know how that goes. The rhinos, 37-year-old Ellie and 21-year-old Gene (whose idea was that?), remained safe behind a large wall the intruder didn't climb.

Then there was the Chronicle's own Steve Rubenstein's story about the Zoo's gorilla mom whose newborn was taken away and put in an incubator because the mother, Monifa, ignored the baby. Late yesterday, Steve wrote, there was no news about the success of a plan to re-bond parent and child. "Keepers remained behind closed doors inside the gorilla house." I hope someone's checking on them. Maybe they should let the rhino guy in there.

The baby ape's father is Oscar Jonesy, on loan from the zoo in Buffalo. And happy to be here in warm weather, I suspect, despite the family problems.

Finally: chickens. When I say "free" I don't mean range. According to the web site Indybay, a Vacaville farm animal sanctuary called Animal Place rescued 650 hens from a California egg farm, where they were headed for a death as gruesome as the one played out with turkeys on that Sarah Pallin Thanksgiving video. It seems once a hen is past her egg-laying prime, she gets jammed into cramped "battery cages", has her beak sliced off with hot blades, then gets hung upside down on a conveyor belt and has her throat slit. It's hard for a depressed chicken's face to get the same human reaction as, say, a suffering calf. So I don't see a good visual for an SF Zoo-like promo ad to save the chickens. But at a minimum, I think there's some kind of age discrimination suit here.

At least the hens that got sprung are "relishing (some) open space, fresh air and sunshine", says Indybay. Which makes them better off than Oscar, Gene, Monifa, Ellie and the remaining tigers at the SF Zoo, and probably the Spokane woman just convicted for flying with a sedated monkey under her blouse.

There. We got to the end of that wacky behavior/animal story and didn't once mention the Board of Supervisors.

At least we're not Nuremberg, where a mother polar bear in their Zoo actually may have eaten one of its newborn cubs. No stupid human tricks or cruelty required.