Shouri the Amur tiger was killed in fight with Longleat's breeding big cats (Image: Longleat)
An investigation has been launched after Shouri the tigress managed to get into a section where the park’s two breeding Amur tigers, Red and Yana, were waiting to enter their main enclosure. The fight that followed left 13 year old Shouri dead while the two othe r tigers escaped injury. Longleat says the killing has left staff “extremely distraught” and it now wants “to determine the exact circumstances surrounding this terribly sad event”.
Shouri’s death comes days after ZSL London Zoo’s 10-year-old Sumatran tigress Melati was killed by her potential mate moments after they were introduced. Staff at the Regent’s Park zoo lit flairs and sounded air horns to try and force male tiger Asim off of Melati but she died from her injuries.
Conservation foundation Born Free has spoken out about the killings, warning the events starkly expose the restrictions of life in captivity for animals where they cannot choose their mates and are trapped in enclosures.
Longleat was not open to the public when Shouri, who arrived at the park in 2006 but was not part of its tiger breeding programme, died on Tuesday afternoon.
As a detailed investigation into the killing gets underway, the park explained how the fight broke out in the following short statement:
“Shouri gained access to an adjacent paddock where two other tigers, Red and Yana, were waiting to be let into the main enclosure. As a result a fight ensued between the three.
“During the process of moving the tigers between the various outdoor paddocks a door connecting two areas was opened which meant Shouri was able to gain access to the same outdoor area as Red and Yana.
“A full investigation is ongoing to determine the exact circumstances surrounding this terribly sad event.”
Ill-fated Melati with her two cubs in 2016 (Image: ZSL London Zoo)
Asim the tiger was brought in to breed with Melati but killed her when they met (Image: ZSL London Zoo)
Amur or Siberian tigers are the largest of all the big cats, with males growing to nearly 12ft nose to tail and weighing up to 1,000lb. Hunting and forest destruction almost drove them to extinction in the 1940s, with as few as 40 remaining in the wild. Today they number 500 across a landscape that stretches from Russia’s taiga forests into China.
Red and Yana are part of the European Endangered Species Programme and live together and although they shared an indoor area with Shouri and her sister Soundari, the two groups never mixed.
Longleat described the impact Shouri’s death has had on staff, explaining: “The dedicated team of keepers who care for our big cats are, understandably, extremely distraught by the events and we are doing everything we can to help and support them.
“The tigers at Longleat play a hugely important role in the long-term conservation of the species. Not only do they inform and educate visitors coming to the park of their wild relatives, but also act as a means of preserving the species for the future.
“Although Shouri was not part of a breeding programme, she was still an incredibly important ambassador for her species and part of the global mission to raise awareness for this amazing animal. Her loss is very hard to take and she will be missed by all the staff here as well as our visitors.
“Our team are incredibly passionate about the animals they look after, and as well as helping build a healthy population of tigers here, we will continue to help promote and contribute to the conservation of tigers into the future.”
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Asim patrols his new surroundings days before killing potential mate (Image: ZSL London Zoo)
Earlier this week London Zoo’s chief operating officer Kathryn England described how there has been an outpouring of grief after the mauling of Melati by seven year old Asim.
In a blog post shared on the zoo's website, the former head nurse at the Royal Veterinary College explained that staff were on hand when the two animals were introduced, and that the encounter initially seemed to go to plan.
She said: "Fire extinguishers, airhorns, hoses and flares were at the ready to distract the tigers if the encounter took a dangerous turn. Initially everything about their meeting was as we expected.”
Then suddenly the tigers reacted aggressively towards one another, and the tigress was killed.
Ms England added: “Part of tigers' natural behaviour is territorial and aggressive, and they are strong and fast animals. In the blink of an eye, with no obvious provocation, they turned on each other and our years of experience told us it was beyond normal.
“Everyone sprang into action – lighting flares, sounding airhorns and setting off fire extinguishers and hoses. Unfortunately by the time Asim retreated the second time, Melati had been fatally injured.”
Born Free said it was saddened by the killing but its head of animal welfare and captivity, Dr Chris Draper, commented: “Tigers are highly territorial and the sudden appearance of another tiger in the enclosure would inevitably lead to aggression.
"Sadly, Shouri died as a result. The question is how she was able to gain access to another enclosure in the first place. We now have two incidents within a week where introductions of tigers - one deliberate, one accidental – have resulted in death. Both tragic incidents demonstrate just how unnatural captivity is for these wild animals, denied the opportunity to choose their mates, have control over their environment, or escape conflict.”