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Colorado zoo tiger dies after artificial insemination attempt

The zoo is mourning the loss of its Savelii, its 9-year-old female Amur tiger.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CMZ) is mourning the loss of its Savelii, its 9-year-old female Amur tiger.

The zoo said Savelii died Thursday due to complications during her recovery from an artificial insemination procedure.

"The loss of individual animals, especially one as spunky and playful as Savelii, is deeply sad," said Bob Chastain, president and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. "Savelii will be missed immensely."

> Above video: How Denver Zoo has survived the pandemic.

According to CMZ, Amur tigers are on the brink of extinction, with only 500 remaining in the wild and 100 in zoos and aquariums. 

Prior to the artificial insemination procedure, CMZ said it had been working for several months to get its male tiger, Chewy, and Savelii into a safe, natural breeding situation. Natural breeding for tigers can be precarious, because the breeding behaviors are often aggressive, including the male biting the back of the female’s neck, according to CMZ.

When the natural breeding introduction efforts failed, CMZ said it decided on artificial insemination as the safest way for breeding.

RELATED: Colorado zoo tiger dies during mating mishap

CMZ said its team of veterinarians, vet technicians, safety officers and behavior managers are heartbroken over the loss of Savelii.

Credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

"In today’s uber-sharing, social media environment, all of our hard decisions are on display for everyone to see and second guess," said Chastain. "In this case, the cost of our actions extracted a genetically valuable female tiger from those who loved her here at [the zoo] and from the world. This is easy for everyone to see. What is less easily seen is the cost of inaction."

"The loss of Savelii is a tragedy for our staff, for her keepers, and for our community," said Chastain. "However, the tragedy goes far beyond that. As you read this, there are thought to be only about 500 Amur tigers left in the wild. That subspecies is literally disappearing, and yet the death of Savelii may get more attention than that crisis. That is why our work in educating people is so important, and we need to continue to take action."

Learn more about the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's tiger conservation program at cmzoo.org/tiger.

Credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

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