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Tiger dies in 'freak accident' at Colorado zoo

Mila, a 2-year-old Amur tiger, died from spine injury after falling off a bench.
Tiger dies in 'freak accident' at Colorado zoo
Posted at 2:20 PM, Aug 30, 2023

A 2-year-old Amur tiger died at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in what officials are calling a "freak accident."

On Friday, zoo staff reportedly gave Mila a shot of anesthesia so she could be treated for a severe dental infection. Officials said the infection could have been fatal if left untreated. 

Mila was trained to greet the staff so she could get the injection. After being injected with the medicine, zoo officials said she jumped on a waist-high bench in her enclosure to lie down, but slipped off and suffered a fatal spine injury.

“She could have slid off from that height a hundred times and landed in a variety of other positions and been unaffected,” said Dr. Eric Klaphake, head veterinarian at the zoo. “The team quickly entered her den when it was safe and diligently tried for 40 minutes to give her life-saving care.”

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The zoo 's president defended his veterinary staff, noting that they have never experienced an incident like this. 

"We never take decisions to anesthetize an animal for a procedure lightly, and this is a tragic example of why," said zoo president and CEO Bob Chastain.

Mila had only been at the zoo since March. She was transferred from the Toronto Zoo, where her mother is, so she could potentially be used in a breeding program. 

Mila was the second Amur tiger to die at the zoo in recent years. In 2021, a female tiger at the zoo died while recovering from an artificial insemination procedure.

“Despite the best professional care that we give these animals, accidents can happen and will happen as long as there is a critical need for conservationists to help highly endangered species survive in human care and in the wild," said Chastain.

The zoo notes that Amur tigers are critically endangered. There are reportedly only 500 still in the wild. 

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