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Female Sumatran tiger Brytne is shown in a handout photo from the Toronto Zoo. Toronto Zoo officials say Brytne died Thursday after being injured in a fight with a male tiger.

Toronto Zoo/The Canadian Press

The world's dwindling population of Sumatran tigers has shrunk even further after one of a pair that Toronto Zoo staff hoped would mate ended up killing the other.

Zookeepers rushed to save Brytne, a 13-year-old female tiger, after her larynx was crushed in a fight with her beau-to-be Thursday morning.

Her death brought an abrupt end to a two-month romance intended to help replenish the shrinking population of this critically endangered cat.

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Fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers are estimated to live in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only 71 in captivity in North America.

The killer, a three-year-old male tiger named Harimau Kayu, was transferred from San Diego in June for breeding purposes.

"Tigers are solitary animals, and normally do not [get]together," said Yadira Galindo, a spokesperson for the San Diego Safari Park.

Toronto Zoo staff had been gradually introducing the animals to each other, and said in a news release the couple had begun to nuzzle and show positive signs.

"All those stars need to be lined up correctly to feel comfortable with each other," Ms. Galindo said, though she added tigers rarely kill each other.

Ms. Galindo said Harimau Kayu acted like a normal tiger during his upbringing in San Diego, pouncing and playing with his sister in typical tiger fashion.

Toronto staff said in a news release they are "devastated" by the loss.

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Brytne was the mother of two litters during her time at the zoo.

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