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A tiger mauled his female mate to death during a breeding session in the middle of a family safari park.

Amur tiger Sinda, 14, was attempting to breed with male tiger Miron at Knowsley Safari in Prescot, Merseyside, when she was bitten and died instantly.

The pair had been mixed before and zookeepers said there were no signs of aggression during the breeding on November 12.

It is not the first time that Miron has killed a tiger – in 2018, he fatally injured another female while at Copenhagan Zoo, which the park was aware of before his arrival in the UK.

The pair were introduced as part of a European Breeding Programme, due to Amur Tigers being an endangered species with only around 500 remaining in the wild.

Zookeepers said Sinda, who had been at the park since 2010, was a “very popular tiger with visitors” and will be “greatly missed”.

In a statement, the safari park said: “We are sad to announce the loss of Sinda, our 14-year-old female Amur Tiger.

“Sinda sustained fatal injuries during a mixing with our male tiger, Miron, as part of a European breeding programme.

“Miron arrived at Knowsley Safari in 2020, he’d been mixed with Sinda successfully on several previous occasions.

“This introduction, like previous ones, was carefully managed by our expert animal team, taking into account each tiger’s behaviour and following the same rigorous procedures.

“Before the mixing, normal positive character traits were seen with no signs of aggression.

“Due to the speed of the incident, there was unfortunately nothing that could be done to intervene and Sinda died instantly from her injuries.

“Sinda was a very popular tiger with visitors and keepers alike and had been at Knowsley Safari since 2010 – she will be greatly missed.

“Our focus is now on ensuring that both our team and Miron are cared for during this difficult time.”

The park confirmed that he had fatally injured another female tiger four years ago.

Responding to whether he had been aggressive to other tigers before, the park said: “Miron had not shown any unusual levels of aggression to female tigers here at Knowsley Safari, however he had fatally injured a female while at Copenhagan Zoo in 2018.

“We were aware of this when Miron arrived at Knowsley, but given the facilities here and expertise of the team it was we felt that we could meet Miron’s needs.

“The introductions between the two had been taken very slowly and managed carefully over a two-year period.”

On why he was allowed to mate after the fatal incident, zookeepers added: “It is always preferable to create environments that are as close to the animals’ natural habitat as possible, including terrain, feeding and breeding.

“Artificial Insemination (AI) in cats is incredibly challenging due to the female cycle, it’s a very complicated and high risk procedure requiring sedation of both tigers.”

Keepers are now consulting with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), who oversee the European Breeding Programme, for advice on their next steps.