A Sumatran female tiger was killed at the Sacramento Zoo by her mating partner Wednesday after the two felines were put in the same enclosure for breeding, zoo officials said.

The male tiger became aggressive with the 15-year-old Baha minutes after a physical introduction, the zoo said in a statement.

Staff monitoring the introduction from outside the enclosure used a water hose and fire extinguishers to separate the animals. Once the male tiger was secured, veterinarians rushed to help Baha, but she had already died, officials said.

They say that since arriving at the zoo from Tennessee in December, the 12-year-old Mohan had had visual contact with Baha.

Staff decided to introduce the felines because the tigers' behavior indicated it was the proper time, the zoo said.

Baha had been at the Sacramento Zoo since 2002 and had successfully bred with three other partners, giving birth to five offspring.

Mohan, who is on loan from a zoo in Memphis as part of a tiger breeding program, had also successfully bred before with other partners, the zoo said.

"We are truly devastated at the passing of Baha," said Matt McKim, the zoo's animal collection director. "Not only was she a wonderful ambassador and a truly attentive mother, she was a one-of-a-kind tiger that inspired many."