COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) – A 9-year-old female tiger, Savelii, died due to complications from an important artificial insemination procedure at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs Thursday. The zoo says it was part of a globally important reproductive effort to prevent the extinction of the Amur tiger species, formerly known as the Siberian tiger.
For several months, the zoo had been working to breed Chewy, the male tiger, and Savelii naturally. Natural breeding for tigers can be precarious as it can often be aggressive and even result in death.
When that did not work, the zoo decided on artificial insemination as the safest way to breed. It was approved by the AZA Tiger Species Survival Plan and funded in part by a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
“The loss of Savelii is a tragedy for our staff, for her keepers, and for our community,” Bob Chastain, CEO of the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, said in a statement. “However, the tragedy goes far beyond that. [Amur tigers] are literally disappearing, and yet the death of Savelii may get more attention than that crisis.”
The number of Amur tigers in the world continues to be extremely low, from about 500 to 550.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is offering a community challenge in an effort to make the best out of the tragic death of Savelii. They are matching each online dollar donated—up to $34,000—which will go directly to tiger conservation.