Could a tiger match­mak­ing tragedy have been avoided?

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS - By Iliana Magra

LONDON – Staff mem­bers at London Zoo were “heart­bro­ken” af­ter a high-risk match­mak­ing op­er­a­tion in­volv­ing two rare Su­ma­tran tigers went hor­ri­bly wrong Fri­day. The male’s deadly maul­ing of the fe­male tiger soon af­ter they met drew an out­pour­ing of re­ac­tions on so­cial me­dia.

But one question was paramount: Could the tragedy have been avoided?

The an­i­mals had been paired as pos­si­ble mates as part of a Euro­pean­wide con­ser­va­tion ef­fort for the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered sub­species. Asim – age 7 and “a hand­some, con­fi­dent cat who is known for be­ing very af­fec­tion­ate with the ladies in his life,” the zoo had said – had been shipped in from Den­mark to meet Me­lati, a fel­low Su­ma­tran who had lived for years at the renowned zoo in Re­gent’s Park in Cen­tral London. He courted her for 10 days in a sep­a­rate en­clo­sure, the zoo said – “chuff­ing” at her and get­ting used to her sight and scent. Then he fi­nally ap­proached her.

Shocked and griev­ing so­cial me­dia users ques­tioned London Zoo’s meth­ods:

Was it too soon for the two wild­cats to meet?

Why didn’t keep­ers use tran­quil­iz­ers when the en­counter turned vi­o­lent?

And why not use other meth­ods, such as re­pro­duc­tive biotech­nolo­gies, to try to in­crease the pop­u­la­tion of a sub­species whose num­bers have shrunk in the wild?

“This death is on you,” Gal Ha­zor, a pop cul­ture writer, said in a tweet Satur­day. “You brought a tiger to an un­nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, and in­tro­duced him to another tiger less than two weeks later.”

He­len Goss, a so­cial me­dia man­ager, also wrote on Twit­ter: “Why on Earth would you in­tro­duce two tigers af­ter only 10 days!?”

“I wouldn’t in­tro­duce my cat to a new cat in such a short time,” she added, call­ing the ap­proach “un­be­liev­able” and “cruel.”

The zoo said Fri­day that it had taken ev­ery pre­cau­tion be­fore the pair­ing, and that ex­perts had judged the time right for the in­tro­duc­tion.

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