Endangered tiger dies during artificial insemination procedure at Colorado zoo

An Amur tiger is seen in an undated photo released Feb. 24, 2021, by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

An Amur tiger is seen in an undated photo released Feb. 24, 2021, by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

A 9-year-old female tiger, Savelii, has died due to complications from an artificial insemination procedure at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs Thursday, according to KTLA sister station KXRM in Colorado Springs.

The zoo says it was part of a globally important reproductive effort to prevent extinction of the Amur tiger species.

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 Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ 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 Cheynne 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, with an estimated 500 to 550 remaining. The Amur tiger was formerly known as the Siberian tiger.

In an effort to bring positivity from the loss of Savelii, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, members of the executive team and active board of directors will offer a community challenge. They will match each dollar donated up to $34,000 which will go directly to tiger conservation.

If you would like to donate, visit cmzoo.org/tiger.

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