The ever shrinking population of tigers in the wild has made mating somewhat complicated. Those big cats who are confined in zoos often have dates arranged for them. That doesn’t mean it is any less complicated, as one zoo found out in a recent tragedy. Keepers had hoped their tigers would mate, but it didn’t happen. Instead, their first encounter took a bloody and fatal turn.
The London Zoo had a female tiger named Melati (above with two of her cubs). Asim, the male, had been on loan from a Danish zoo. He was living an adjoining enclosure so the couple could get to know each other.
“The zoo says 10-year-old Melati died on Friday during her first encounter with Asim, a seven-year-old male who was shipped in from Denmark last month,” The Daily Mail writes.
For ten days, the two were allowed to socialize through their cages. But when the breeders introduced them face-to-face, they fought. What was supposed to be an amorous interaction, “quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction.”
Zoologists tried to break up the fight. They set off flares and alarms, but couldn’t get the two big cats apart. Asim killed Melati.
Melati was a Sumatran tiger. Asim, also a Sumatran, means “protector” in Arabic.
The zoo released a statement saying the staff are “devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events.”
When the two cats were introduced, they should have been more compatible. There were no obvious warning signs before their introduction that led any of the experts to believe they would fight.
Asim was eventually pulled away from Melati and secured in another cell. Vets were on the scene as the fight was broken up, but it was already too late.
Kathryn Sanders, the London Zoo’s tiger keeper, had bragged about Asim’s journey in January. “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.”
Back in 2016, Melati gave birth to two cubs. She was being mated again as part of the European Endangered Species Program for Sumatran tigers.
Jae Jae, a male Sumatran tiger who had been at the London Zoo, now lives at Le Parc des Félins, in France.
The cats need to be moved periodically to help diversify the gene pool of the available breeding pairs. Their numbers are quickly dwindling and experts estimate there are only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.