Threatened Sumatran tiger dies at Washington Zoo
An endangered female Sumatran tiger died Monday at a Washington state zoo after sustaining serious injuries during an introduction to breeding with a potential mate, zoo officials said.
Kirana, a 6-year-old Sumatran tiger at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, suffered fatal injuries Friday after being introduced to the zoo’s 2-year-old male Sumatran tiger, Raja, as part of a plan to breeding to help save endangered species, the zoo said.
“When tigers breed it is natural for them to fight with each other and there is usually some level of aggression,” said Dr Karen Goodrowe, general curator of the zoo. “This level of aggression was way beyond what we expected with the tiger introductions.”
The zoo has introduced four pairs of Sumatran tigers since 2010 and none of those previous pairs resulted in the death of tigers from serious injuries, Goodrowe said.
She called Kirana’s death “heartbreaking”, saying staff had approached Kirana and Raja’s pairing “slowly and cautiously” for several months.
The two tigers had been physically separated by a screen door while still being able to see and feel to develop their familiarity, the zoo said. Once the two tigers showed signs of being comfortable with each other, the keepers removed the screen door and allowed the pair to meet.
After seeing Kirana in distress, the zoo said keepers quickly separated the two tigers and treated her injuries.
Although Kirana’s health appeared to improve on Sunday, the endangered tiger died the next day, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr Karen Wolf, said. An autopsy confirmed that Kirana had suffered significant trauma from injuries and bacterial infection.
“The loss of Kirana is a tragedy for our zoo family, our community and our world,” said Point Defiance Zoo Director Alan Varsik. “With only a few Sumatran tigers on this earth, we must do all we can to help them survive.”
According to the zoo, there are around 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with only 77 of the endangered animals residing in North American zoos.
In addition to Raja, three other Sumatran tigers live in Point Defiance Zoo and the Aquarium’s Asian Forest Sanctuary: Bandar, 8, Kali, 8, and Indah, 6.