Desi Pondering: SF’s Tiger Event

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 30th, 2007


One of the most important components to living, to me, is to always be open to learning new information, new things about the mundane and the extraordinary, and to understand how the new interacts with the old.

As I read it, the mystery of how the tiger escaped from the grotto at the San Francisco Zoo remains. The riddle of why the two Indian brothers were there and what they were doing continues.


Part of what has been an enigma is the role of the humans involved. But who are these individuals? As it turns out, the three men involved are friends, with the two brothers being South Asian. The two are not now cooperating with the police:

The Dhaliwal brothers have been hostile to police in the current death investigation and were “extremely belligerent” in an earlier encounter with police this year, authorities say.San Francisco Chronicle

It was soon thereafter that I came upon the use of the phrase “Desi spotting” on the SAJA site. SAJA stands for South Asian Journalists Association, with South Asia including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afganistan, and other countries in the area.

Little did I know that South Asians, mostly Indians and Pakistanis, call themselves “Desis.”

Looking it up, I found this:

Desi (or Deshi; pronounced /ˈd̪e:si/ or /ˈd̪e:ʃi/, Hindi: देशी Urdu:دیسی ), literally means “local, regional” or “indigenous”, as opposed to videshi विदेशी وِدسی meaning “foreign”. The term may be used to refer to people or things of South Asian origin.


At the SAJA Forum, under a discussion entitled “Desi Spotting: Two Desi Brothers Among Tiger Attack Victims,” the identities of those involved are explored.

It was pointed out:

“When Carlos Sousa Jr. didn’t show up for Christmas dinner, his father called several of his son’s friends – including the two brothers injured in the tiger attack that killed the teen. Either Amritpal “Paul” Dhaliwal, 19, or his 23-year-old brother Kulbir Dhaliwal answered the phone and told Sousa Sr. that his son wasn’t with them. In reality, the three young men were either on their way to or had already arrived at the San Francisco Zoo, where they would later be mauled by a 350-pound Siberian tiger.”


Dhaliwal (Hindi: धालीवाल) (also: Dhalliwal), is a large Jat clan found in Northern India. Needless to say, tigers have a special significance to some Indians. Or perhaps it was the power of the animal. Perhaps there is a clue in this mess. Perhaps it speaks to why these young men were attracted to this tiger. I don’t know.


Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

18 Responses to “Desi Pondering: SF’s Tiger Event”

  1. Alligator responds:

    I heard a report earlier today that leads me to believe the big guns are being drawn in this tragic incident. Everyone is lawyering up, including the two surviving victims.

  2. jodzilla responds:

    That’s some interesting research you’ve done. Very interesting. It may be a jumping point for someone else.

    What strikes me most about this incident, as well as some others, is how often specialists and “experts” seem to underestimate animals. Every time I hear someone say that “it’s impossible for a tiger to make that jump” I think to myself about the amazing things I’ve seen common house cats do and they don’t have near the strength or agility of a tiger.

    I guess nature is full of surprises, both wonderful and tragic.

  3. chrisandclauida2 responds:

    if they were dumb enough to taunt, tease, haing body parts over into the grotto and move them to trigger the tigers prey drive and do all this on purpose then they are not victims.

    they shouldn’t be thought of anything other than criminals and should be sued by the zoo for the cost of the tiger. enough of this crap of suing every person or entity we can find with cash.we need personal responsibility to rein in our world.

    these guys are responsible for everything that happened because they taunted the tiger. it isnt the zoo’s or tigers fault in any way shape or form.

    a song comes to mind;
    you dont spit into the wind
    you dont tug on superman’s cape
    you dont mess around with Jim
    you certainly dont taunt a man eating beast then whine
    when it eats you.

    what they are is the natural attempt by nature to rid the gene pool of such stupidity. it has been reported they even threw rocks at the tiger. my god how completely ignorant do you have to be to do such things.

    the one sad thing is that the wrong person died. the friend who died went in to save one of the brothers who was about to be killed and drew the tigers attention only to get killed himself. its sad that the one person who in a moment of redeeming behavior is the one of the three to die.

    the two brothers continue their demonstration of utterly disgusting behavior in how the respond to the dead boys family and police.

    no one should cry for these boys/young men. they caused this situation and nature responded by instantly allowing karma to teach a lesson that they wont ever forget.

    cry for the tiger. it was just being a tiger.

  4. Ken responds:

    The enclosure that housed the tiger has remained virtually unchanged since the zoo opened in 1949, and no tiger has ever attempted to escape before.

    I was not an eyewitness, but my guess would be that the tiger was taunted into attacking the young gentlemen. My only evidence of this is that the victims were all Raiders fans, based upon the clothing they were wearing, and undoubtedly behaved as such.

    I hope investigators are able to get to the bottom of what really happened before someone attempts to sue the zoo over what has occurred.

  5. Terry W. Colvin responds:

    Agreed, their behavior was strange from our cultural perspective.

    Besides the taunting and machismo, there is an undercurrent of “faith” that wild animals aren’t that dangerous. The attitude towards nature in Asia seems to be one of fatalism, a foolish act may or may not result in your injury or death. I am still puzzled by their behavior. One young man may have dangled his leg over the cat enclosure thereby giving the tiger a paw-hold on his leg or torso and climbing out over him, then killing him. My opinion.

  6. captiannemo responds:

    The way I think the way it happened is the three were taunting the tiger to see how far they could go. The first of these young men gets so bold as to go over the fence and dangle his leg over the edge of moat, perhaps on a bet. The tiger sees her chance and makes her move! Jumping the moat and grabbing the leg she uses it to help her climb out and leaps over the railing and attacks the person closest, the second victim. While the tiger is mauling the second fellow the third victim grabs his friend with the mauled leg (his bloody shoe was later found in the moat) and makes it as far as the cafe before the tiger catches up with them to finish the job.

    This should be ruled as a death by misadventure.

  7. Loren Coleman responds:

    Regarding the many media-based reports about what happened and what has been found, the latest law enforcement news conferences detailed that no shoes were found inside the tiger enclosure. A bloody shoe imprint, however, was found on the fence or railing to the tiger area.

    There is no evidence that feet were dangled over the moat. Of course, the primary witnesses appear to not be fully discussing what they know, at least, as reported in San Francisco media reports.

  8. plant girl responds:

    This saddens me a great deal. I hope someday that I can find a job that I can help educate people that these are not housecats they are wild animals that should be free!

  9. squatch-toba responds:

    Just the fact that the “victims” are not cooperating with the police tells me that they were indeed doing something that they were not supposed to be doing! If they were just minding their own business, why are they hiding the details? Hey, you play with fire long enough you get burned!

  10. mahlerfan responds:

    Although the victims may have taunted the tiger and agitated the animal enough to cause it to escape from its enclosure, I don’t think this is a reason to give the zoo a free pass in their negligence. The fact is that tiger should not have been able to escape under any circumstance. This could have happened when the zoo was more crowded and who knows how many people could have been attacked. People who would not have been acting like idiots (if in fact that is what happened) but were just having a good time at the zoo.

  11. kittenz responds:

    Wouldn’t it be something if it turns out that the tiger was not the Sousa boy’s killer after all?

  12. kittenz responds:

    I disagree with those who say the zoo was not at fault. They knew that their wall was much lower than the recommended height for tigers, and a woman had told them, in writing, ten years ago about an incident in which a different tiger had nearly gotten out when it went for her then 3-year-old son.

    The woman had her toddler at the zoo. One of the tigers leaped into the moat and then leaped up and got its paw over the rim of the moat, before it finally slipped back down. The woman told a nearby zoo employee, who also witnessed the incident, and the employee said that the tiger did that all the time, and that it “hated (the employee’s) guts”. The woman then wrote to the zoo director describing the incident and cancelling her zoo membership. She never heard another word about it.

    So the zoo authorities had been told about the possibility that the tigers could get out of their grotto, and they apparently did nothing about it.

    I had heard about the police finding a shoe print on the railing of tiger pen, but this is the first I have heard of a bloody footprint. Forensics should determine fairly quicky whether that print matches any of the boys’ shoes.

    I agree, the Dhaliwal brothers’ behavior seems strange. There’s no way to know, without more information, whether to consider their behavior “suspicious”. My gut feeling is that they had much more to do with the whole tragedy than they are telling. Otherwise why did they tell the Sousa boy’s father that he was not with them, when in fact he was?

    I doubt they were at the tiger grotto for any religious or mystic reasons, but there is a lot here that just does not add up.

    Are authorities certain that the Sousa boy’s fatal injury was inflicted by the tigress? I wonder, if the tigress saw three men scuffling, for instance, could that have excited her enough to cause her to charge out of her enclosure? Did anyone other than the two brothers witness the escape?

    No matter what triggerred her predatory charge, the fact remains that the zoo’s enclosure was not adequate to keep the tiger confined. But I sure would like to find out what caused that attack.

  13. Loren Coleman responds:

    For a December 31, 2007, update, on the tiger attack, see especially the last half of this posting:

    Year Ends With Zoos in News

  14. treeclaw responds:

    People have this all wrong. Zoo animals need protection from dangerous human beings. The tiger pen was not high enough to keep out the Homo sapiens who demonstrate inappropriate behavior.

  15. grajasekar responds:

    Hi everyone,

    Perhaps the zoo really should have higher walls. Read on though…

    But then, I’m from India (from the city of Madras or chennai as it is now know). I’ve gone to zoos all around the country and seen the callous attitude with which people lean over the railings and walls (some with toddlers in their hands too) and how they let their kids run around the zoo and do the same stuff with no proper supervision. The same kind of stuff goes on at Madras Crocodile Bank (outside the city) set up by Romulus Whitaker long ago. I’ve even seen the way some people throw stones and such into the tiger enclosure at New Delhi’s zoo (and these ain’t no little kids,I’m talking about grown men who come with their families).

    And I’m just an engineering student and I asked him why he was throwing stuff in (while the Tiger was in the Moat surrounding the enclosure, mind you the walls were quite high though). He said “Aaapko kya? (“Why do you care” in hindi). I really felt like pushing him over into the enclosure. But that’s the kind of respect the common man has for animals here. They don’t look upon it with respect, as something of great power, as a being that can and will harm you if you cross the line. They see something in a cage and they go “Hey everyone come see the tiger in the cage, lets throw a few stones at it and taunt it and see whether it roars”.

    If the Dhaliwal brothers were indeed taunting the tiger, I’d say they deserved to have been mauled to death by that tiger. It is disheartening to note that Carlos Sousa Jr was killed rather than these two fools. But is it known with absolute certainty that they were not all in the act together?? Its also sad that these guys have the nerve not to cooperate with the police after all they’ve done. Perhaps the zoo should indeed sue them for the loss of the tiger. But no amount of sueing is going to bring that wonderful animal back alive. The loss of the tiger is a tragedy I would put at an equal level with the death of the Souza boy.

    The zoo certainly needs to update itself on safety measures. And why didn’t the tiger simple go for anyone else after it got out? Why did it go directly after the two guys who had run to the cafe? Looks like there is something fishy going on with regard to why these kids were there after the zoo’s official closing time.

  16. kittenz responds:

    It’s my understanding that the zoo closed its entry gates at 5pm but that the zoo did not close for visitors already inside until 6pm. That is pretty standard. I rarely ever leave a zoo at its stated closing time. At Cincy, for instance, in the summertime especially, I have stayed for up to two hours past the time when the zoo entry gates closed, and I have never been asked to leave. The zoo employees are busy cleaning up, etc., and as long as visitors are not acting disruptively, they allow people to leave at leisure.

    I believe that the San Francisco Zoo had cut corners so much that they had inadequate coverage to ensure the safety of both people and animals.

    Now that this tragedy has brought zoo safety into public scrutiny, maybe zoos across the country will modernize their security. For instance, video surveillance might have helped to save young Sousa’s life. Certainly it would have provided some answers as to how the incident unfolded – answers that, given the Dhaliwal brothers’ reported lack of cooperation with the investigators, may never be forthcoming.

  17. Gail Susan responds:

    Everyone is just so concerned about these three animal abusers the dead one and the ones in hospital. I feel for the Tiger’s life a beautiful animal held in captivity. The animal should have been spoiled to no end. The zoo was wrong to have the wall too low. But let’s remember the Tiger would not have felt threatened if these 3 boys didn’t torment her. A tiger, an endangered species in the wild, lost her life because of three morons who do not know how to act in public enjoyed this of all days Christmas. This is how these idiots entertained themselves. I want to know where was security, get some cameras surrounding the zoo as well for safety of the animals in captivity. I live in Philadelphia and go to the Zoo, and on one occasion a man was tormenting this Lion, the man was roaring in his face and the Lion was behind bars and the Lion had enough and turned his ass to his face and sprayed. I said, GOOD! “That is what you deserve.” When people are in the zoo and you see animals being abused from other patrons, go to someone and get help. These animals lost their mothers to be in captivity and now what, let’s humiliate them and than when they escape, the police kill her. This is sick and disturbing. I just hope there is a Tiger in heaven, now and we know where these punks will end up. The police could have used a stun gun. If you cannot take care of these helpless wild animals properly, you should not have them in the first place.

  18. kittenz responds:

    I think it’s a bit naive to think that the tigress should have been subdued with a stun gun. She was loose in the zoo, she had already killed a man for goshsakes and was busy mauling two others. The police did not have any details of the escape until much later, and they thought that as many as four tigers were out. Zoo visitors were in imminent danger. The police did what they had to do. I’m sure it was as distasteful for them to have to kill that tiger as it would have been for me, yet given the same circumstances I probably would have killed it too.

    Stun guns are used on people, dogs, cattle, and other domestic stock. The effects of the stunners on those species are well known. But what settings would be appropriate for a tiger? How could a person be certain that the cat would actually be immobilized? What if the stun gun only drove it to greater fury?

    No, as terrible as it was for the tigress to lose her life, it was really the only choice that the police could have made under the circumstances.

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