A TIGER has died at Longleat safari park after a fight broke out between three of the big cats.

A spokesman from the park, near Warminster, announced "with deep sadness" the death of Shouri, a female Amur tiger, on Tuesday.

The spokesman said the team who handle big cats are "understandably, extremely distraught".

He added: "Shouri gained access to an adjacent paddock where two other tigers, Red and Yana, were waiting to be let into the main enclosure. As a result a fight ensued between the three.

"During the process of moving the tigers between the various outdoor paddocks a door connecting two areas was opened which meant Shouri was able to gain access to the same outdoor area as Red and Yana."

A full investigation has been launched to determine the exact circumstances surrounding her death on Monday.

The safari park was not open to the public at the time of the incident and both Red and Yana were not injured, the spokesman said.

Shouri was 13 and had arrived at Longleat in 2006, while Red and Yana arrived last year as a breeding pair, as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.

The park spokesman added: "Both Red and Yana have been living together and whilst they share an indoor area with the other two older female tigers, the two groups are not mixed.

"The tigers at Longleat play a hugely important role in the long-term conservation of the species. Not only do they inform and educate visitors coming to the park of their wild relatives, but also act as a means of preserving the species for the future."

As few as 500 Amur tigers are thought to remain in their natural habitats in the wild.