COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A 9-year-old tiger at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo died last week due to complications following an artificial insemination procedure.
The female tiger, Savelii, was one of the rare Amur tigers left in the world, according to the zoo. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo CEO Bob Chastain said the incident brought "a multitude of mixed emotions."
Chastain said the decision to use artificial insemination to breed Savelii was made due to the possible dangers of natural breeding for tigers. However, on Thursday afternoon, Savelii died due to complications during recovery.
The zoo said seven veterinarians were on hand for the procedure, along with reproductive biologists and representatives from three AZA-accredited zoos and one university.
Chastain also explained the decision to go for artificial insemination, even though it resulted in Savelii's death, saying that "all of our hard decisions are on display for everyone to see and second guess."
Chastain explained that last year, there were only six tiger cubs born for all three AZA-managed tiger subspecies - Amur, Malayan, and Sumatran. In the same time period, 11 tigers died from old age and other causes. Chastain said the tiger population continues to shrink.
"Sometimes the test of a decision is, 'Would you make it again?' While I think about this tonight, with the loss so fresh, the real answer is, 'I don't know.” But what I do know is that housing tigers is not enough to save them," Chastain said.
Chastain said there are only about 500 Amur tigers left in the wild, with about 100 in AZA's facilities in the United States and Canada.
The zoo is hosting a community challenge to raise money for tiger conservation, with a donation match for every dollar raised up to $34,000. Click here for more information.