London Zoo’s beloved female tiger Melati has been brutally mauled to death by her potential new mate while the two beasts were being introduced.
The zoo says 10-year-old Melati died Friday during her first encounter with Asim, a seven-year-old male.
The two tigers had been kept in adjoining enclosures for 10 days so they could get used to one another, but their first interaction ‘quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction.’
The zoo says keepers intervened with loud noises, flares and alarms but were too late to save Melati.
London Zoo’s beloved Sumatran tigress Melati (pictured) died while being introduced to new male Asim for the first time
Asim, a Sumatran tiger who was moved to the Zoo as a new mate for resident female, Melati
Melati a female Sumatran Tiger walks past her frozen pool, at London Zoo in 2013
It says staff are ‘devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events.’
Zoologists had hoped the two tigers would breed as part of a Europe-wide tiger conservation program for the endangered Sumatran subspecies.
The zoo’s head tiger keeper Kathryn Sanders said last month: ‘Asim arrived yesterday after catching the ferry from France and immediately made himself at home in his new, cosy den.
‘He got up bright and early this morning and got to work exploring his territory – we’ve spotted him lounging on his heated rocks and even dipping his paws in his new swimming pool.
‘Asim is a handsome, confident cat who is known for being very affectionate with the ladies in his life – we’re hoping he’ll be the perfect mate for our beautiful Melati.’
Seven-year-old Asim – whose name means ‘Protector’ in Arabic – had been matched with Melati through the European Endangered Species Programme for Sumatran tigers.
The species are critically endangered, with just 400 recorded in the wild, it is therefore vital that conservationists work to breed them.