A female Sumatran tiger at ZSL London Zoo has been killed by her potential new mate on their first introduction. Zookeepers had kept the tigers separated from each other in adjoining enclosures until they felt the animals were ready to meet. Despite extremely careful monitoring in the same enclosure, Asim pounced on Melati.
A statement published by the zoo details what went wrong: "Their introduction began as predicted, but quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction". They also announced that in the wake of Melati's death, Tiger Territory would be closed for the day and they would be focusing on Asim's health.
Zoo staff desperately tried to distract Asim with loud noises, flares and alarms but he overpowered Melati and killed her.
"Everyone at ZSL London Zoo is devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events", they wrote in their statement.
Trained staff eventually managed to secure Asim in a separate paddock in order for vets to safely attend Melati, but they confirmed that she had died in the attack. After their keepers saw positive signs, they decided to make the "high-risk" introduction on Friday morning.
He was matched with Melati through a Europe-wide breeding programme that aims to save the species from extinction and keepers in London had high hopes the plan would work.
Big-cat introductions can be perilous, even with diligent preparation, the zoo said.
Conservationists expressed sadness following the death of Melati, as Sumatran tigers are deemed critically endangered by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. Asim was recently transferred to London from a Danish safari park to serve as a new mate for female resident tiger Melati.
The London Zoo welcomed Asim on January 29, writing in a post that the lion - who was moved to the zoo from Ree Park Safari in Denmark - was a "handsome, confident cat who is known for being very affectionate with the ladies in his life".
It said the focus now is "caring for Asim as we get through this hard event".
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