The mysterious death of Malyshka, a Siberian tiger in Norfolk, England, has left zoo keepers baffled, and led some to question whether the rare creatures should be kept in zoos at all.
Malyshka had already given birth to two cubs and was pregnant with more when she was found drowned in her enclosure.
"Malyshka was such a strong and healthy tigress and showed no signs of external or internal injuries," said Banham Zoo's director Martin Goymour. "The pool in the enclosure is not deep or considered hazardous"
Goymour said that various theories, including a seizure, were being investigated, and that her male partner had been ruled out as suspect.
"He is a gentleman in the tiger world and would often be seen playing with and caring for the two youngsters, so he is not implicated," he said.
The death has reignited debate about the role of zoos in British society. Earlier this month Angela Smith, the British charities minister, denounced zoos as "relics of the Victorian era."
"There are still serious welfare issues regarding keeping animals in zoos and the argument of captive breeding is utterly irrelevant," Craig Redmond, campaigns director for the Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS), told The Independent.
There are only an estimated 450 Siberian tigers in the wild.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more