Tiger dies at Point Defiance Zoo after getting severe injuries during breeding introduction

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma is mourning the death of a 6-year-old Sumatran tiger, who died after being seriously injured during a breeding introduction. 

According to zookeepers, Kirana was slowly introduced to 2-year-old Raja, another Sumatran tiger, as a part of a plan to save their endangered species. 

Staff approached the pairing of Kirana and Raja very slowly and carefully over many months, according to Dr. Karen Goodrowe, the zoo's general curator. Keepers moved the two near each other so they had visual and smell access while still being physically separated by a mesh door and then closely monitored the pair, looking for "chuffing," fence-rubbing, and other positive signs that they were attracted to and comfortable with each other.

Finally, when Kirana was in estrus and, after more intensive monitoring, the keepers removed the mesh barrier and allowed the tigers to meet physically, the zoo said. When keepers noticed Kirana was in distress, they worked to distract Raja to separate the pair. 

Kirana sustained life-threatening injuries during the meet. 

4/23/2021 (Photo/Katie Cotterill) Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.

She received around-the-clock care for her injuries, and it looked as though she were improving at one point. However, she succumbed to her injuries. An animal autopsy confirmed Kirana died of "substantial trauma from injuries and a bacterial infection." 

The zoo has introduced four Sumatran tiger pairs since 2010 and none has resulted in a tiger death or serious injury, according to Goodrowe.

"When tigers breed, it’s natural for them to spar with each other and there is typically some level of aggression," said Goodrowe. "This level of aggression was far beyond what we would expect with tiger introductions."

Point Defiance Zoo is one of 14 accredited North American zoos that received recommendations this year from the Species Survival Plan programs to breed their Sumatran tigers.  "A litter of cubs would help preserve this endangered species, which has only about 400 animals left in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra." the zoo explained.  

Only 77 Sumatran tigers live in North American zoos, according to the zoo. 

In addition to Raja, there are three other Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo: 8-year-olds Kali and Bandar and 6-year-old Indah. 

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