(CNN) - An endangered Sumatran tiger was mauled to death at the London Zoo on Friday just moments after it was introduced to a potential mate for the first time.
Melati, a female tiger and long-term resident of the zoo, was introduced to male Asim, who had recently been acquired by the zoo. Zookeepers said they hoped that the pair would breed in the future.
The London Zoo acknowledged that while introductions of big cats are always considered "high risk," experts had observed "positive signs" and deemed it to be the "right time" to introduce the pair.
Unfortunately, the interaction quickly became violent.
“Zoo staff did everything they could to try to distract and separate the pair, using loud noises, flares, alarms, water hoses and fire hydrants, but devastatingly Asim had already overpowered Melati," the zoo said in a press release about the incident.
The zoo said a tranquilizer wouldn’t have helped because of the difficulty of targeting the right tiger and the time it takes for the drug to take effect.
Asim was also injured in the confrontation, the zoo said.
The Sumatran tiger subspecies is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist, the World Wildlife Fund said. Its populations are threatened by poaching and habitat loss.