SAN DIEGO - A female Malayan tiger was killed Saturday while mating at the San Diego Zoo.
Zoo officials say what happened at the zoo on Saturday when "Piga" was killed was not an attack.
They say that when Malayan tigers mate, it is an aggressive act.
"This is unfortunately something that happens in the wild," said Christina Simmons, who is with San Diego Zoo Global. "In the zoos, we try to prevent it and work very hard to prevent it. Unfortunately in this situation, animal care staff was not able to intervene in time."
The incident occurred inside a private enclosure early Saturday morning, before guests were even inside the zoo.
According to the zoo, the male and female tiger were introduced for breeding when the male injured the female. The injury ultimately resulted in her death.
Both tigers had been at the San Diego Zoo for some time and were placed at the zoo with the intent to breed.
"Tigers, like many large carnivores, can have some very aggressive behaviors as part of their breeding behavior," added Simmons. "It does sometimes occur that they will injure each other in the wild as well during these breeding bouts. This is part of the reason that normally these large carnivores live as solitary animals and generally only come together during a breeding season."
10News was told that Malayan tigers are a critically endangered species. Only about 500 of them are left in the wild.
"The zoo has an excellent track record, absolutely," said visitor and long-time supporter Peri Long of San Diego.
Long says the San Diego Zoo's breeding program is one of the reasons she is a frequent visitor. When 10News spoke with her as she exited the zoo's gates, she said she was not aware of what had happened Saturday.
"I think it's sad, but that's nature," she said.