Rare tiger kills prospective mate in London at first meeting

Melati a female Sumatran Tiger

Asim, the tiger that killed its prospective mate at London Zoo on Friday, is to be found a new female, possibly within months, the zoo's head keeper said this weekend.

Before zookeepers opened the door separating the animals, Asim and Melati had spent 10 days growing habituated to each other through the cage. The fight turned worse and Melati ended up dead in the fight.

Melati, described as the "rarest and smallest subspecies of tigers", was introduced to Asim, a potential new mate. Zoo keepers tried to intervene with flares and loud noises as Asim attacked Melati, but they were left "heartbroken" as the stronger male ripped her apart.

Experts had said it was important that tigers such as Melati were given the opportunity to have cubs with other mates to ensure genetic diversity across the world's zoos and ultimately safeguard the future of the species.

The two spent days within sight of each other but in separate adjacent enclosures so they could get used to each other. Keepers eventually were able to shepherd Asim into a separate paddock so that they could safely get to Melati, the zoo said.

The animals "were initially cautious", but then the introduction "quickly escalated into a more aggressive interaction".

Any tiger introduction is "high risk", the zoo noted, so the deadly result, while not ideal, was a realistic possibility.

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Heralding his arrival, the zoo described him as "a handsome, confident cat who is known for being very affectionate with the ladies in his life", adding that "we're hoping he'll be the ideal mate for our attractive Melati".

Staff at the zoo are now focused on caring for Asim following the tragic event.

The zoo's previous male, Jae Jae - which had fathered seven cubs previously with Melati - was moved to French zoo Le Parc des Félins, on 30 January.

Asim was moved to ZSL London Zoo as part of the European-wide conservation breeding program.

The organization Tigers in Crisis says there are only estimated to be about 500 to 600 Sumatran tigers in the wild.

According to London Zoo, the Sumatran tiger faces threats of poaching and habitat loss.

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