Rare male tiger kills proposed mate in first meeting at Zoo

Melati a female Sumatran Tiger

The zoo says their first contact "quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction" and the seven-year-old male killed the 10-year-old female.

Asim, seven, was a potential new mate for Melati after her previous partner Jae Jae was moved to a French zoo in January.

But he attacked her after they were put in the same 2,500sq metre enclosure.

The staff, who were carefully watching their interactions, attempted to distract the tigers from each other with loud noises, flares, and alarms - a standard response for zookeepers to implement in these situations, they explained - but it was too late.

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It says staff are 'devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events'. "There has been lots of "chuffing", which is a happy sound they make to let each other know they have good intentions", they said shortly after Asim's arrival in London.

Speaking about the future of the programme, he said the zoo hoped to have another breeding pair of tigers and would use the death to "evolve" and "learn" for future introductions.

Within minutes, Asim had "overpowered" Melati.

The zoo acknowledged that while introductions of big cats are always considered "high risk", experts had observed "positive signs" and deemed it to be the "right time" to introduce the pair. The tigers were kept apart in separate enclosures initially, but they were introduced after a while. Keepers eventually were able to shepherd Asim into a separate paddock so that they could safely get to Melati, the zoo said.

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The Sumatran tiger is classified as critically endangered, with just 300 existing in the wild.

Following the incident, the tiger territory was shut for the rest of the day.

Speaking about Asim's condition, Mr Fitzpatrick said the tiger had been through a "traumatic event" and suffered minor injuries, which were being "monitored".

The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are only around 400 Sumatran tigers left due to the toll from poaching, deforestation and encroachment by people in Indonesia.

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