A Colorado zoo says a two-year-old tiger that previously lived at the Toronto Zoo has died after an accident involving anesthesia.
A statement by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo says the tiger named Mila died on Friday from a spinal injury after slipping off a waist-high bench while on anesthesia for a serious dental issue that required surgery.
The zoo says the tiger slipped off the bench less than a minute after lying down and said it was impossible from a human safety standpoint to stop her from falling.
“The team quickly entered her den when it was safe and diligently tried for 40 minutes to give her lifesaving care,” Eric Klaphake, the head veterinarian, wrote in the statement.
Mila, an Amur tiger, was moved from the Toronto Zoo to Colorado in March on a future breeding recommendation and after showing signs that she was ready for her own space away from her mother, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo said.
The tiger had not been introduced to the public yet as the zoo was still adjusting her to her new habitat and needed to address the dental issue.
“She was making such great progress with us,” Rebecca Zwicker, an animal care manager for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, wrote in the statement.
“She was a feisty and intelligent tiger.”
Mila is the second female tiger to die at the Colorado zoo in recent years.
In 2021, a tiger died at the zoo after complications during recovery from an artificial insemination procedure. The zoo said in a statement that the deaths are unrelated but “the fragile state of their species is glaring.”
The Toronto Zoo called the news “heartbreaking” and said it is establishing a fund in honour of Mila to support endangered species conservation projects in the wild.
“From the moment she was introduced to the Toronto community she became an immediate favourite, and we know this loss will be felt very deeply by our staff, volunteers, members and guests who were strongly connected to her,” it wrote in a statement.
“Her playful and endearing nature touched many lives, and inspired people to fight for the survival of this endangered species in the wild.”
The Toronto Zoo said it will be creating a message board at the Amur tiger habitat where visitors can leave a message through the long weekend.
The zoo also asked that members of the public to refrain from approaching staff and volunteers with questions about Mila to give them space to process the news.
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo said it was working with the Toronto Zoo to process the loss and is focused on preventing such accidents in the future.
Amur tigers are critically endangered, with only around 500 in their natural habitats and about 100 in zoos in the United States and Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2023.