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London Zoo has insisted keepers could not have foreseen or stopped a fatal attack by a male tiger on its potential mate which unfolded 'in a split second'.
Ten-year-old female tiger Melati was mauled to death by seven-year-old male Asim when keepers allowed the pair to meet for the first time at the central London zoo on Friday.
Zoo - CEO - Kathryn - England - Today
The zoo's CEO Kathryn England today said the attack led to 'one of the most difficult days of my long career working with animals'.
She insisted there was no sign the animals would react how they did and they had been 'calling and "chuffing" [making friendly noises] to each other' before they were allowed in the same enclosure.
Keepers - Moves - Fire - Extinguishers - Airhorns
She said keepers were watching their moves very carefully when they were introduced and were ready with fire extinguishers, airhorns, hoses and flares in case things went wrong.
She said: 'Initially everything about their meeting was as we expected. They watched each other, they were cautiously interested and they sniffed the air for several minutes.
Amount - Posturing - Male - Dominance - Submits
'A certain amount of posturing from the male is natural; it is normal for him to exert dominance so the female submits.'
'They swiped at each other and reared up – all quite a normal part of them testing their boundaries. But 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.
Skirmish - Seconds - Asim - Gate - Melati
'The initial skirmish lasted a few seconds and we were already reacting. Asim started to retreat and we were poised to close the gate when Melati lashed back out at him.
'He overpowered her in a split second. Everyone sprang into action; lighting flares, sounding airhorns and setting off fire extinguishers and hoses.
Time - Asim - Time - Gate - Melati
'Unfortunately by the time Asim retreated the second time and we could close the gate, Melati had been...
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