Staff at the London Zoo looked on in horror recently when a newly introduced rare Sumatran tiger mauled its potential mate to death in a breeding program that went horribly wrong.
Asim, the newly arrived male tiger, had been placed in a cage adjacent to Melati, his potential new mate. For 10 days, the staff carefully monitored the situation, allowing the pair to get used to both the close proximity and the scent of each other. They were also on the lookout for potential signs which would indicate the time was right to allow the pair to be introduced within the same enclosure, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Once these signs were present, staff decided to introduce the pair, which were to be a part of a “Europe-wide tiger conservation program for the endangered Sumatran subspecies.” However, things quickly escalated.
“Their introduction began as predicted, but quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction,” the zoo said.
Within minutes of the introduction, Asim, 7, had killed Melati, 10, even though aversion techniques were used to try and distract the fighting pair.
The use of loud noises, flares, and alarms was implemented and Asim, whose name, ironically, means “protector” in Arabic, was eventually placed back into a separate enclosure. However, it was too late by that stage and Melati had already perished.
“Everyone here at ZSL London Zoo is devastated by the loss of Melati and we are heartbroken by this turn of events,” the zoo said in a statement.
London Zoo Sumatran tiger Melati killed in fight https://t.co/yv95EqLJdB
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 8, 2019
This is a devastating blow to the breeding program, as it is estimated that only 500 to 600 Sumatran tigers exist today in the wild, according to the organization, Tigers in Crisis.
When Asim arrived at the zoo last week from Denmark, there was much excitement for the “strapping Sumatran tiger,” according to Fox News.
“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,” said head tiger keeper Kathryn Sanders at the time, according to Sky News.
However, these sorts of introductions between animals are always considered risky, according to the London Zoo.
“As with all big cats, introductions, however carefully planned, are always considered to be high risk,” the zoo said.
After the fatal encounter, the tiger territory was closed for the rest of the day at the London Zoo while the team focused on caring for Asim.