Sacramento Zoo officials said they had high hopes that two rare Sumatran tigers would begin courting this week.
“Both tigers’ behavior indicated that this was the proper time for physical introductions,” the Sacramento Zoo said in a statement. “Based on knowledge and experience from past successful introductions, staff decided to physically introduce the tigers on Wednesday morning.”
The two tigers were placed inside of an enclosure, and staff watched from outside as what was supposed to be one more step to keeping the species alive ended in tragedy.
Mohan became “aggressive,” according to the zoo, and attacked Baha within a matter of minutes, the Sacramento Bee reported. Staff used a water hose and fire extinguishers to intercede, the Associated Press reported, and secured Mohan elsewhere.
But by the time veterinarians got to Baha and tried to resuscitate her, it was too late: She had already died from the attack, according to the zoo.
“We are truly devastated at the passing of Baha,” the zoo’s animal collection director, Matt McKim, said in a statement. “Not only was she a wonderful ambassador and a truly attentive mother, she was also a one-of-a-kind tiger that inspired many.”
Sacramento Zoo’s director and chief executive officer Kyle Burks told the Bee that although it’s rare, aggression between tigers does happen in captivity.
Mohan has since been removed from public viewing, the paper reported.
Baha had been living at the Sacramento Zoo since 2002 and leaves behind five living offspring, all bred through successful zoo introductions, according to the zoo.