Why did the male Sumatran tiger kill his potential mate at London zoo?

It’s all over the news, an endangered male Sumatran tiger at London Zoo attacked and killed his intended mate soon after they were allowed to be together for the first time. Why did the male kill the female?

Asim and Melati
Photos: London Zoo.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The male cat is seven years of age and he arrived at Regent’s Park Zoo 10 days ago from a Danish safari park. The female, whose name was Melati, was a resident Sumatran tiger. They were kept apart in adjoining enclosures where they could see, smell and react to each other before being brought together.

Nobody has tried to explain why Asim mauled to death Melati soon after they met each other. Zookeepers tried to separate them but were unable to do so and the female was killed quite quickly by the ‘strapping’ Asim. The staff are devastated. They had seemed to be comfortable with each other’s presence when they were kept in separate enclosures.

That’s the background. I can only see one reason why Asim killed Melati which is what I would describe as “social tension”. Tigers have very large natural home ranges. Male tigers can have a home range (the territory that they call their own) of up to about 200 square miles.

The joint enclosure that they were put into measured 2,500 square meters; a tiny fraction of what is natural to them. I am sure that move from a Danish safari park would have stressed Asim. He had moved territories which we know for domestic cats is difficult. And relocation of tigers in the wild can fail. Also Asim’s space was downsized. These are all stress factors.

This is zoo life for captive wild cats. Melati was not sexually receptive. She must have been going through the anestrus phase. Therefore she was not a female with whom the male could have mated. She simply presented as another tiger in an extremely confined territorial range for the male.

It seems that he was stressed and unhappy with her presence and killed her. Immediately afterwards Asim was secured in a separate paddock whereupon veterinarians attended to Melati confirming that she had died. She was 10-years-of-age. It highlights the failure of zoos with regard to captive cats. They don’t breed well normally in captivity due to the stress. Therefore zoos have trouble maintaining population sizes.

I should be pleased to hear from other people as to what you think as to the reasons why Asim killed Melati.

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2 thoughts on “Why did the male Sumatran tiger kill his potential mate at London zoo?”

  1. It’s a faulty assumption that two animals of the same species will simply mate if tossed together. Without seeing the video the female may have rejected the male with body language and if he was likely stressed and far from settled in his new home. Humans spend more time and thought in introducing a new cat into their home than was shown here. Two animals ignoring each other in adjoining enclosures doesn’t mean they’re accepting of each other.


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