The San Francisco Examiner has an exclusive today on a case that has gone mostly forgotten: the San Francisco Zoo’s Christmas Day 2007 tiger attack that left two young men mauled and a friend and the tiger dead. The Examiner’s story—running under the sophomoric headline “Tiger attack tapes turn up tasty treat“—reports the details of the San Francisco police interview with the two survivors of the attack, Kulbir and Amritpal “Paul” Dhaliwal.

From the first, the investigation focused on two areas: 1) had the three victims taunted the animal (a Siberian tiger named Tatiana), perhaps prompting the attack; and 2) how in the world had the animal managed to get out of its quarters. The answer to 2) turned out to be straightforward: The zoo’s big cat enclosures were not up to standard—not high enough and not sophisticated enough to prevent the tiger from bounding across a protective moat.

The answer to 1) has always been more elusive. In time, reports surfaced that the Dhaliwal brothers had been baiting the tiger before she climbed out of the enclosure. The police disclosed, and eventually the brothers admitted, that they and the friend the tiger killed, Carlos Sousa Jr., had been drinking and smoking marijuana before the attack. The zoo hired a spin doctor who pushed the story that the victims had provoked the attack. (The Dhaliwals eventually sued the city, both for negligence and harassment related to the attack and for slander and libel. The city settled the suit last year for $900,000.)

So what’s the Examiner’s contribution to the tale? Here it is: The Dhaliwals were eating nachos, they told police. But no, they didn’t toss any to Tatiana. Here’s part of the transcript the Ex published:

Police: Now, OK, so you went to the zoo with your brother, Amritpal, and Carlos, and when you guys were over near the tiger area, what were you guys doing?

Kulbir Dhaliwal: We were just looking at the tiger, passing by, and this tiger just jumped up, and then, then—

Police: OK, were you guys eating anything?

Kulbir Dhaliwal: Oh, we had nachos.

Police: OK, all of you had nachos?

Kulbir Dhaliwal: Uh, we only had one plate, so—

Police: Who was holding the nachos?

Kulbir Dhaliwal: Um, can’t remember.

Zoo’s Xmas Tiger Attack: The Nacho Angle 26 November,2010Dan Brekke

  • kim

    ridiculous reporting and article. i read this on the examiner site last night. KQED i expect more from you. … oh and your title, is disgusting. you are trivializing a tragedy where a tiger lost her life because of common human scum. tatiana was not hungry for anything, especially nachos.

  • vicky

    so what? that’s it? those idiots got away with killing a tiger due to their stupidity bc the morons we’re DRUNk & HIGH. S*** please.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at:


Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor