Male tiger mauls intended mate to death at London Zoo

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This image taken from video and made available by London Zoo, shows Sumatran tiger named Asim at London Zoo, Wednesday Jan. 30, 2019. On Friday, zookeepers opened the barrier separating their enclosures, optimistic they'd begin the breeding process after showing "obvious" positive signs. Instead of getting along, the tensions between the male and female aggravated.

The tragedy happened just ten days after Asim arrived at the zoo in the hope that he and Melati would help boost the dwindling numbers of the endangered big cats. During the escalation, the tigers did not respond to zookeeper attempts to defuse the situation with piercing sounds, flares, and alarms. "Everyone at ZSL London Zoo is devastated by the loss of Melati, and we are heartbroken by this turn of events", said their statement. Their skins fetch a high price on the black market, making the critically endangered cats a target for illegal hunting, the zoo adds.

Keepers at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) had hoped to find a "perfect mate" for beloved 10-year-old resident Melati, and brought 7-year-old male tiger Asim from a Danish park on January 30 as part of a breeding program to save the species from extinction.

Representatives at ZSL London Zoo did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

The two spent days within sight of each other but in separate adjacent enclosures so they could get used to each other. Asim was known for being an affectionate tiger with other tigresses in his life.

The pair were introduced in the hope that they would mate, but zoo keepers were left devastated after their initial introduction turned violent.

But tensions "quickly escalated", things became "more aggressive" and Melati died in a fight, the zoo said.

Within minutes, Asim had "overpowered" Melati. The team responded quickly to distract the pair but it was too late. The tiger is found in the wild only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, and the World Wide Fund for Nature says that fewer than 400 exist today, down from an estimated 1,000 in 1978.

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