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An endangered female Sumatran tiger died at a Washington state zoo on Monday after being seriously injured during a breeding introduction with a potential mate, zoo officials said.

Kirana, a 6-year-old Sumatran tiger at Point Defense Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, suffered life-threatening injuries on Friday after being introduced to the zoo’s 2-year-old male Sumatran tiger, Raja, as part of a breeding plan. To help save endangered species, said the zoo.


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“When tigers breed, it is natural for them to conflict with each other and there is usually some level of aggression,” said the zoo’s general curator, Dr. Karen Goodrow. “This level of aggression was much higher than we expected from the introduction of the tigers.”

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Gudrow said the zoo had introduced four Sumatran tiger pairs since 2010 and that none of those previous pairings had resulted in serious injuries to the tigers.

She called Kirana’s death “heartbreaking”, adding that staff had been approaching the pairing of Kirana and Raja “slowly and carefully” for several months.

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The two tigers were kept physically separated by a mesh door while they were still able to see and smell each other, the zoo said. Once the two tigers indicated that they were comfortable with each other, the keeper removed the lattice door and let the couple meet.

After seeing Kirana in distress, the zoo said keepers quickly separated the two tigers and addressed her injuries.

Despite Kirana’s health improving on Sunday, the endangered tiger died the next day, said Dr. Karen Wolf said. An autopsy confirmed that Kirana suffered severe trauma from injuries and a bacterial infection.

“The loss of a grocery is a tragedy for our zoo family, our community and our world,” said Point Defense Zoo director Alan Warsick. “There are only a few Sumatran tigers left on this earth, we need to do everything we can to help them survive.”

According to the zoo, there are an estimated 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, of which only 77 endangered animals remain in North American zoos.

Besides Raja, there are three other Sumatran tigers living in the Asian Forest Sanctuary of Point Defense Zoo and Aquarium: Bandar, 8, Kali, 8, and Inda, 6.