Management and Conservation of Captive Tigers, Chapter 7

Policies for Managing Tigers

L. Simmons, G. Brady and other contributors

Tiger Escapes

No matter how well designed your tiger facility is for containing tigers, either through accidents or acts of God, tigers sometimes get out of their enclosures. It is important to respond immediately in a calm and professional manner in order to protect zoo staff and visiting public, and to return the tiger safely to its home. To accomplish this, it is imperative that each zoo develop and practice its tiger escape policy. Below is a sample tiger escape policy which institutions can modify for their own use.

Tiger Escape Policy

A tiger that escapes from its proper holding area is to be responded to immediately. Tigers are housed in a variety of areas which include exhibits, cages (large and small), and holding areas. When a tiger escapes from one of these areas into a service or public area or into an animal exhibit, an emergency protocol must be in place. Tigers are wild animals and dangerous.

I. EMERGENCY PROTOCOL: When it is determined that a tiger has escaped, do the following:

A. STAY CALM. Your composure or lack of it will affect the performance of others.
B. Attempt to confine the tiger.

  1. If possible, confine the animal into a service area with access for it to return to its enclosure. Many times, given the opportunity, the tiger will go back to its cage.
  2. Try to contain the tiger where you can -- be careful.
  3. If you have confined the animal, be sure the surrounding area is secured. If this means closing a building, do it.
  4. Do not try to return the escaped animal by yourself. Monitor the animal's location until help arrives.

C. If you cannot confine the animal, summon help as quickly as possible, but stay in the area to monitor the animal's location and keep unauthorized people out of the area.
D. Do not excite the animal. Keep your distance.
E. Several institutions have an alarm system. This should be activated as soon as possible in an emergency situation. Zoo personnel must respond immediately to the alarm.
F. All personnel involved in a "Tiger Escape" should use extreme caution at all times.


  1. Reporting Tiger Escape:
    1. Find the nearest zoo employee (preferably a zoo keeper) and have him or her go for help.
    2. Information about the Tiger Escape should include:
      1. Location of Tiger.
      2. Is Tiger confined?
      3. If Tiger is on the move, where and in what direction?
    3. Except as a last resort, do not ask a visitor to report an escape. Rather, ask them to send another employee to you and have that employee make the report.
  2. Reports of an animal escape should go to all employees carrying a radio as quickly as possible. Also, the Zoo Director or senior supervisor should be notified as quickly as possible.

    The first zoo employee who has a radio and knows of a Tiger escape will broadcast, "ALL UNITS, CODE GREEN" (Code Green means animal escape) and give the last known location. This message should continue to be reported for several minutes to keep people informed where the tiger is.

  3. Once a "Code Green" message has been broadcasted, the following events should take place:
    1. The ranking zoo staff member will assume charge of events.
      1. Delegate to have the public and everyone not involved with the escape secured in buildings.
      2. Instructions should be given to close all perimeter gates to confine escaped animal within zoo grounds.
    2. A trained zoo staff member will retrieve "Kill Rifle" from the gun safe and proceed to SITE in a vehicle to assess the situation. The type and model of "Kill Rifle" should be determined by zoo staff. Most zoos use a 12-gauge shotgun, 30.06 or 30.30.
    3. Only authorized and trained personnel will use the kill rifle.
    4. All unnecessary radio communication shall stop until the emergency has been resolved.
    5. Chemical immobilization equipment should be transferred to site where tiger is as soon as possible. Person "in charge" will determine if tiger should be immobilized. Only trained staff will use immobilization equipment.
    6. Person "in charge" will assess the number of people needed to assist in capturing the escaped tiger. In most cases, the fewer people, the better.
    7. Those asked to assist are to follow directions until emergency is resolved.
    8. At the onset of the animal escape, persons involved in the escape will be instructed to obtain a holding cage, capture net, or other equipment that would be useful.
  4. Additional Assistance

    A zoo staff employee should be instructed to call Police, Fire Department, or Ambulance if needed. Designate a person to meet and direct assistance where needed. Do not call "emergency groups" unless absolutely necessary.

  5. Do not be a hero. All tigers are wild and could be extremely dangerous. Be cautious and use common sense.


Policy On Culling (Euthanasia) Of Surplus Animals (from L. Simmons)

Editors' note: A 1991 policy decision in reference to surplus animals from the AZA Felid Taxon Advisory Group (TAG) and IUCN/SSC CBSG is presented here. Readers may also contact AZA for a copy of its policy on euthanasia of zoo animals.

Managing wild animals in captivity to support and enhance conservation and the preservation of genetic diversity is a complex exercise requiring the long-term dedication of people and valuable resources. Most felids in captivity can be expected to demand significant and long-term resources because: 1) most species have special needs to thrive, and 2) many have relatively long natural lifespans that are enhanced even further by rapid advancements in health care. The people and institutions responsible for these animals naturally represent diverse disciplines and philosophies. It is apparent that successful practical management to achieve common conservation goals must of necessity be coordinated and reasonably coherent. Although recognizing that philosophical agreement is seldom possible on most issues, the positions of any parent organization (like the AZA, Felid TAG, individual SSPs or individual institutions) must be clear. Probably no single issue arouses more emotional and diverse responses among both the public and our own colleagues than the culling of animals deemed surplus to the conservation effort.

For this reason, the AZA Felid TAG and IUCN/SSC CBSG:

Recognize the requirement of collection managers to make decisions that consider the well-being of the total species, regional captive and wild populations as well as individuals animals in the full knowledge that management constraints may proscribe culling of some individuals.

Support the position of euthanasia for managing wild felids in captivity, but only on an individual-by-individual animal basis and only when the propagation program is simultaneously and rigorously regulated by responsible breeding and use of contraceptives.

Recommend that all involved organizations and individuals, especially zoos, zoo directors and zoo administrators, take a proactive role in developing a formal culling (euthanasia) policy as an effective and acceptable management tool. It is further recommended that active education programs be developed at the insti-tutional level for the general public and the institutional staff focusing on the utility and ultimate necessity of taking this conservation action. It also is recommended that institutions rely less upon justifying culling on the basis of often vague "medical" reasons.

Support the concept that a less anthropomorphic and more objective term than "euthanasia" be used in referring to the humane killing of surplus animals (for example, "culling").

Recommend that each individual SSP develop and disseminate a formal written policy on this issue.

Recommend that prior to any culling, every effort be made to recover genetic material (especially tissue and germ plasm) to assist in preserving genetic diversity and/or to enhance our fundamental understanding of species biology.

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