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Accident kills tiger at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) — Staff at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and Toronto Zoo are mourning the loss of Mila, a 2-year-old Amur tiger who transferred to CMZoo in March 2023.

CMZoo said Mila died on Aug. 25. She was brought to the zoo in March on a future breeding recommendation. However, as Amur tigers are solitary animals, she never met CMZoo’s male tiger, Chewy.

CMZoo had recently discovered that Mila had a severe dental issue that was advancing to her sinuses, and if left untreated the issue could be deadly for animals.

On Friday, Mila received an injection of initial anesthesia, she then jumped up on a bench where she began to lay down and let the anesthetic drugs take effect. CMZoo said that less than a minute after lying down, she slipped off of the waist-high bench, causing a deadly spinal injury.

CMZoo said due to the short timeframe from lying down to slipping off, it was impossible from a human safety standpoint to stop her fall.

“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, CMZoo’s head veterinarian. “The team quickly entered her den when it was safe and diligently tried for 40 minutes to give her life-saving care.”

While CMZoo and Toronto Zoo teams work through the loss, the team is focused on preventing this accident from happening in the future.

“We feel a huge responsibility for all of the animals in our care, and we especially feel for Mila, her current and past caretakers, and the people in Toronto who loved her from her birth as the only survivor in her litter,” said Bob Chastain, CMZoo president and CEO. “Not only was she an internationally beloved individual who defied the odds as a cub and survived to adulthood, but she was here on a mission to save her own species.”

“She was making such great progress with us,” said Rebecca Zwicker, an animal care manager in the Asian Highlands at CMZoo. “She was a feisty and intelligent tiger, and the team had been patiently and consistently training with her to help her settle in and feel comfortable in indoor and outdoor spaces behind the scenes. She was getting so close to being out where guests could see her. We were excited to introduce her to our community and for people to fall in love with her here, just as they had in Toronto.”

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