London Zoo workers and visitors were devastated Friday after popular Sumatran tiger Melati was killed by a new male picked to be her mate.
LondonZoo in the United Kingdom said it was "heartbroken" that 10-year-old Melati had been killed by new arrival Asim, 7, just moments after the two met.
The zoo says keepers intervened with loud noises, flares and alarms but were too late to save Melati.
They had shown "obvious positive signs" when they were kept in adjoining enclosures within each other's sight for the previous 10 days, a spokesman for the zoo said.
Zoologists gave them time to get used to each other's presence and smells, and waited for what they felt would be the right time to let them get together. Keepers had hoped the big cats would breed but have been left devastated after Asim, the male they brought in, attacked Melati.
They managed to put Asim, 7, back in a separate paddock, but by that time Melati, 10, was already dead. After their keepers saw positive signs, they decided to make the "high-risk" introduction on Friday morning.
He was matched with Melati through a Europe-wide breeding programme that aims to save the species from extinction and keepers in London had high hopes the plan would work.
The zoo detailed the harrowing turn of events in a statement posted to their website.
Big-cat introductions can be perilous, even with diligent preparation, the zoo said. Asim was recently transferred to London from a Danish safari park to serve as a new mate for female resident tiger Melati.
It said: "Our focus right now is on caring for Asim, as we get through this hard event".
The Sumatran tiger, which naturally lives in the forests and jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia, is now classified as critically endangered and is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of threatened animals.
Zookeepers at London Zoo described Asim as a "handsome confident cat who is known for being very affectionate with the ladies", before his arrival in London.
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