COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CBS4) – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo officials announced that an endangered Amur tiger died last week after undergoing artificial insemination. Officials said the death of a 9-year-old woman named Savelii was “deeply saddened”.

(Photo credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

“As stewards of endangered and threatened species, we must draw the fine line between doing the right things for the individual animals in our care and making tough decisions about the future of the species, both in the wild and in human care. Bob Chastain, President and CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, stated.

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“Natural breeding for tigers can be precarious because breeding behavior is often aggressive,” said Chastain. “(We) chose artificial insemination to protect this amazing species of Amur tiger from extinction.”

(Photo credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

“Much hope depended on the outcome of this trial,” said Chastain.

The number in the wild is still insidiously low – around 500. The number in human care, zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in the United States and Canada is close to 100.

Chastain said Savelii passed away due to complications during recovery after the procedure.

(Photo credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

“Because of the global importance of this procedure, seven veterinarians and reproductive biologists and representatives from three AZA-accredited zoos and one university were available for the procedure,” said Chastain.

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In an emotional letter, Chastain said that all animal deaths have a profound impact on the zookeepers who look after them, but said that a “death like Savelii’s can be more soul-shaking than others who often face illnesses, chronic medical problems.” or diseases precede advanced age. “

(Photo credit: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

“In the moments after her death, I approached Savelii’s side to touch her as she slipped from one world to the next. I thought, “That’s a tiger.” “This is a tiger that lies here,” wrote Chastain.

“I looked at her long and amazing body, her huge two inch long white teeth and her paw-plate-sized paws. I saw that her hair was shaved for the surgical site. There on her skin were the streaks that were once hair. The same streaks you see on her fur run through her skin. They read in tones for black and a blushing pink. I don’t know why that mattered at that moment other than that animals and nature are amazing and magical. “

Chastain described Savelii as “spunky and playful”.

“Savelii will be missed very much. Our sadness is not only about the loss of a beautiful individual, but also about the loss of the Amur tiger species as a whole, ”he explained.

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In an effort to do something positive through the loss of Savelii, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo offers a $ 34,000 worth of community challenge. They will match every dollar raised up to $ 34,000 to go straight to the protection of the tigers. You can enter at cmzoo.org/tiger.