Julie Stalmer 5:30 p.m., Sept. 22
Panda Fingered in Zoo Arson Case
Bear Caught on Security Camera Footage Was Allegedly Distraught Over Selection of Franklin Park Zoo as Setting for Hit Movie Zookeeper.
"It should have been us!"
Zhen Zhen: "a typical teenage panda" or a dangerous sociopath?
PEEKING THROUGH THE BAMBOO SHOOTS, SAN DIEGO ZOO PANDA ENCLOSURE - For most people, the Kevin James comedy Zookeeper was a silly comedy full of talking animals and sub-Leno jokes. But for troubled adolescent panda bear Zhen Zhen, it was a chance at the big time, a "once-in-a-lifetime shot at blowing this lousy tourist trap and living 'Tha Bear Life.'"
Now, sources close to Zhen Zhen report that the bear, merely disconsolate after learning that San Diego had been passed over in favor of the Franklin Park Zoo as a setting for Zookeeper, became enraged after the film's $21 million opening weekend. And today, the San Diego Fire Department announced that recovered security camera footage shows the angry bear was responsible for the gift shop fire that caused $700,000 in damage on Monday morning.
"Apparently, the little so-and-so managed to squirrel away one of the Zoo's gas-powered tiki torches," explained SDFD spokesman Zach Harris. "She waited until her parents were asleep, then snuck out of her enclosure and torched $200,000 worth of merchandise, much of it featuring her own image. It seems the building served as a painful reminder of her D-list celebrity status. She feels she could have been on movie posters around the world, and instead, she's stuck on a gift shop coffee cup. It's sad, really."
"I'll tell you what's sad," rejoined panda caretaker Alyssa Medeiros. "It's sad that Zhen Zhen is part of an endangered species. Otherwise, I'd be more than happy to..." (At this point, Medeiros received a curious look from her supervisor, and abruptly truncated her statement.)
More details as they are forthcoming.
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- San Diego's Strange Struggle for Pandas — July 23, 1998