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Female tiger Melati was killed last week by potential mate, Asim, during their first introduction

The deaths of two tigers at UK zoos in the last week shows why a “centralised licensing” programme is needed, an animal charity has said.

A female tiger at London Zoo was killed by a potential mate and another died after tigers fought at a safari park.

The Born Free Foundation says the zoo licensing currently overseen by local authorities has “differences in understanding and application”.

The zoo trade body says the tiger deaths were unrelated to licensing.

The Born Free Foundation, which campaigns to keep wildlife in the wild, says that “significant incidents occur with disturbing frequency” at zoos.

It says it has logged 33 incidents since 2016, including the death of eight Humboldt penguins following a “urban fox” attack and an escaped snow leopard which was shot after a zookeeper left an enclosure door open.

The charity’s head of animal welfare and captivity, Chris Draper, says “licensing and inspection of zoos in Britain is currently the responsibility of the large number of local authorities”.

This leaves the law “open to interpretation”, he said.

‘Important conservation work’

The professional body which represents more than 100 zoos and aquariums says it was “saddened to hear of the deaths of two female tigers at two of its member collections in recent days”.

But the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) rejects Born Free’s call for changes to licensing, saying the events must not overshadow the important conservation work undertaken by its members.

“BIAZA welcomes robust zoo licensing and endorses recent steps taken by Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] to strengthen the zoo licensing process in the UK,” a spokeswoman added.

An endangered female Sumatran tiger was killed by a potential mate during their first introduction at London Zoo on 8 February.

The zoo said staff used air horns and fire extinguishers to stop the male tiger, Asim, from killing Melati.

However, despite the best efforts of the vets, 10-year-old Melati died.

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Thirteen-year-old female tiger Shouri had lived at the park since 2006

On Monday, a rare Amur tiger died in a fight with two other tigers at Longleat Safari and Adventure Park in Wiltshire.

The park said 13-year-old female Shouri gained access to a paddock where two other tigers, Red and Yana, were being held and a fight ensued between the three animals.

The park said a full investigation was ongoing to determine the exact circumstances surrounding the “terribly sad event”.

There are thought to be only 300 Sumatran tigers and 540 Amur tigers left in the wild.

Defra has been approached for comment but has yet to respond.

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