At a zoo, a dicey attempt at tiger matchmaking went awry.
The ZSL London Zoo said Friday that a new male Sumatran tiger, Asim, killed the facility’s “beloved” female, Melati. Zookeepers allowed the two wary predators to physically interact for the first time, hoping they would eventually mate as part of a greater European breeding program.
But after Asim approached Melati, matters “quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction,” the zoo said.
Today our beloved Sumatran tigress Melati died while being introduced to new male Asim for the first time. Everyone at ZSL London Zoo is heartbroken by this turn of events. Tiger Territory will remain closed while our team focus on caring for Asim: https://t.co/KAoW0rziPN pic.twitter.com/CHcVKKMdz4
— ZSL London Zoo (@zsllondonzoo) February 8, 2019
Any tiger introduction is “high risk,” the zoo noted, so the deadly result, while not ideal, was a realistic possibility. During the escalation, the tigers did not respond to zookeeper attempts to defuse the situation with piercing sounds, flares, and alarms.
“Everyone at ZSL London Zoo is devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events,” the zoo wrote.
Before zookeepers opened the door separating the animals, Asim and Melati had spent 10 days growing habituated to each other through the cage. They expressed “obvious positive signs,” according to the zoo.
But although these predators were domesticated in zoos, a wild, violent interaction won out.
In the wild, Sumatran tigers are listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Elsewhere, like in India, wild tigers face similar challenges as their natural territories are lost, degraded, and intruded upon.
Melati’s many fans reacted to the news of her death online, sharing photos and expressions of grief over the loss.
So upset and devastated about the news of Melati @zsllondonzoo she was not only a beautiful tigress but a great mum to the tiger cubs she brought up with Jae Jae. She will always be remembered, my thoughts are with the keepers and everyone who loved visiting her @ConserveWildCat pic.twitter.com/JotreQF3o8
— Natasha Balletta (@NatashaBalletta) February 8, 2019