Rare Sumatran tiger dies at Point Defiance Zoo
One of the female Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium died on Monday from injuries sustained during an introduction to breeding.
The death of 6-year-old Kirana has been “heartbreaking” for zoo staff, especially those who have cared for her since she was a baby, said Dr Karen Goodrowe, the zoo’s general curator, in A press release.
“We are devastated by the loss of a very special tiger and the loss of the tiger population as a whole,” Goodrowe said.
Goodrowe explained that the zoo took a slow approach to pair up Kirana and Raja, a 2-year-old Sumatran tiger. The guards brought the tigers closer together so they could see and feel each other while being separated by a wire fence. For several months, zoo staff monitored the couple, looking for signs of comfort and attraction between the two.
“Finally, when Kirana was in estrus and, after more intensive monitoring, the keepers removed the mesh fence and allowed the tigers to meet physically. When the guards saw Kirana in distress, they were quick to distract Raja and separate the couple, ”the zoo said in its press release.
Kirana received constant care and monitoring over the weekend from vets and staff, and she appeared to be improving on Sunday, said Karen Wolf, the zoo’s chief veterinarian.
“She was getting better and better and we were cautiously optimistic that she would be okay,” said Wolf.
But Kirana’s significant injuries turned out to be too heavy to survive.
The incident is unusual, particularly for Point Defiance. Goodrowe reports that the Tacoma Zoo has introduced four pairs of Sumatran tigers since 2010, and none have resulted in tiger death or serious injury.
“When tigers breed, it’s natural for them to fight with each other, and there’s usually some level of aggression,” Goodrowe explained. “This level of aggression was way beyond what we expected with the tiger introductions.”
Sumatran tigers are an endangered species, with around 400 in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There are 77 in North American zoos. Point Defiance has four: Bandar, 8, Kali, 8, and Indah, 6, and Raja, 2.