FEB 11, 2019 6:41 AM PST

An Attempt to Get Two Critically-Endangered Sumatran Tigers to Mate Went Terribly Wrong

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognizes the Sumatran tiger as a critically-endangered species on the agency’s Red List, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that conservationists are doing anything and everything in their power to help the animals populate and reverse their declining condition. Unluckily, one of the latest attempts to get a male and female Sumatran tiger to mate and reproduce has ended in disaster.

A Sumatran tiger in its natural habitat.

Image Credit: Matthew Luskin via UC Berkley

It all happened when a ten-year-old female named Melati and a seven-year-old male named Asim joined one another in the same tiger enclosure at London Zoo. Melati had called London Zoo her home for several years, and Asin had only arrived at the end of January. Shortly after being introduced to one another for the first time, the two large cats engaged in a fight and Melati was later pronounced dead by London Zoo veterinarians.

Obviously, no one intended for this to happen; zookeepers followed best practices and imposed a probationary period. The animals were separated from one another in different paddocks but placed within sensory distance to help facilitate a friendly introduction. After the probationary period expired and the animals became used to one another’s presence, they were approved to make contact for the first time.

“During careful observations of the tigers’ reactions to each other, zookeepers noted obvious positive signs such as chuffing - a friendly sound which shows they have good intentions - and relaxed body language when around each other,” the London Zoo said. “Following this careful monitoring, along with the team’s shared experiences of introducing big cats, Zoo experts felt it was the right time to introduce seven-year-old Asim and ten-year-old Melati.”

Related: Sumatran tigers impacted by deforestation and fragmentation

Hopeful zookeepers expected an act of courtship when the two met but were instead astonished by the transpiration of unexpected events. Following a short period of cautiousness, the two became violent with one another. Zoo staff quickly intervened to try and distract the animals with loud noises, flare guns, and water hoses to prevent harm. Unfortunately, it was already too late.

Shortly after the incident, zoo staff successfully secured the tiger enclosure – they moved Asim to a separate paddock so that medical teams could check on Melati; sadly, she didn’t make it. Now, instead of caring for two large cats, the London Zoo is mourning the senseless loss of a critically-endangered Sumatran tiger and attempting to figure out what they should do next with Asim.

“Everyone at ZSL London Zoo is devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events,” the London Zoo added.

Related: Duo of critically-endangered Sumatran tigers born at London Zoo previously prove healthy

Asim purportedly sustained a minor wound during the exchange with Melati. Veterinarians are currently tending to his injuries to ensure he makes a full recovery, but his future at London Zoo remains uncertain. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if future courtship attempts will be made.

Source: London Zoo, IUCN

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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