The tigers had grown promisingly fond of each other in the past few weeks, nuzzling and chuffing as potential mates should.
But the Toronto Zoo courtship ended in tragedy Thursday when Brytne, a much-loved 13-year-old Sumatran, was mauled to death by her breeding partner.
“The keepers put them together this morning and they had a spat. It can just happen so quickly, the power of these animals,” said Maria Franke, curator of mammals at the Toronto Zoo. Zookeepers broke up the early-morning altercation between Brytne and 3-year-old Harimau Kayu seconds after it started, but they were too late to save her. Veterinarians have confirmed the death was the result of a crushed larynx.
“There was nothing that was not done properly here . . . this is just really bad luck. It’s (part of) dealing with wild animals,” Franke said. This was the first mating attempt for Harimau Kayu, a young adult Sumatran tiger donated by the San Diego Wild Animal Park in June.
Translated, his name means Tiger Woods, but Toronto Zoo keepers have nicknamed him Harry. He came with a Species Survival Plan breeding recommendation and no history of violence.
He will eventually be paired with another female, said Franke, who stressed that fights between tigers in the wild or in captivity are rare.
Sumatran tigers are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered. It is estimated that only about 300 to 500 exist in the wild, while 71 are captive in North America.
The zoo has been working for six months to successfully introduce Harry and Brytne into the same habitat so they could mate.
“Everything was lining up. They were getting along well,” Franke said.
The contact started with “howdy door-ing,” allowing the pair to meet and view each other in adjacent spaces through a fence.
When that went well, the tigers were introduced in a controlled space, where they nuzzled, head-butted and made chuffing noises — all good signs. Their contact was always supervised and for a limited time, up to a couple of hours per day before the incident, Franke said.
Staff members are devastated over the death of Brytne, who had lived at the zoo since 1999.
“The keepers who were with them on a daily basis, they’re pretty shaken up,” Franke said. “It’s never easy . . . you get very close with the animals in your care. It’s sad.”
They are comforted by the fact that Brytne has left her genes behind, having produced two litters of cubs with another male.
The average life expectancy of a Sumatran tiger is 10 to 15 years in a zoo, less in the wild, according to Toronto Zoo staff.
The zoo’s mammal curator said there have been about 10 incidents in North America where captive tigers have been killed by their breeding partners.
Toronto Zoo animal deaths
October 2011: 10-year-old polar bear Aurora gave birth to three cubs and "rejected" them. Two died.
Oct. 21, 2011: Rowdy, the zoo's oldest male African lion, was euthanized, just two months after his mate, Nokanda, died of cancer. The lions had been companions since Nokanda moved to the zoo from Philadelphia in 1997. Rowdy had started to lose mobility and was suffering from dementia.
July 2011: 15-year-old Nokanda, a white lioness, was euthanized after vets discovered she had cancer.
February 2010: Tongua, a Siberian tiger, died after surgery. The 17-year-old animal did not recover from sedation.
August 2010: Samantha, a 37-year-old Western Lowland gorilla was euthanized after a stroke causes her to lose control of her limbs and experience seizures.
June 2010: 32-year-old orangutan Molek was euthanized after blood tests revealed his kidneys had stopped working.
- CURSOS - CLASES
- OLFATO Y GUSTO
- A. LOCOMOTOR
- CICLO VITAL
- TEST CAMPBELL
- CLUBES RAZAS
- VETERINARIA I+D