A high-profile newcomer to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in NSW has killed his intended mate despite them previously "getting along very well".
Lioness Kora suffered fatal injuries to her airway after an "unexpected altercation" with Lazarus, the 200-kilogram African lion dispatched to Dubbo, in western NSW, from Auckland Zoo in late 2012.
Transferred from Mogo Zoo on the NSW South Coast, Kora arrived in Dubbo amid high hopes that she would one day deliver Taronga Western Plain Zoo's first cubs.
The lioness died the same day in late December that she and Lazarus clashed, despite "rapid intervention" aimed at saving her.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo announced the tragic end to a mooted love match this week, and the sadness of staff at losing Kora.
Weeks of "visual and fence contact" between Kora and Lazarus had convinced keepers that they were ready to meet.
"Both animals were displaying the correct behaviours and getting along very well," the zoo's spokeswoman said.
But a week after the magnificent cats were introduced, their promising relationship unravelled.
"Interactions between unrelated carnivores are known to be fraught with danger and can lead to injury or death in the wild," the spokeswoman said.
"To our knowledge Lazarus had not done anything like this before."
Lazarus had fathered six cubs by the time he was flown across the Tasman in a custom-made steel crate, with an Auckland Zoo keeper by his side.
Shy and timid on his arrival in Dubbo, he is now "very responsive" to his keepers.
The spokeswoman said Lazarus would continue to be exhibited on a rotational basis with two other lions.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is searching for another mate for the 11-year-old lion.