SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) — A tiger seen by millions of visitors to Zoo Miami has been euthanized.

“Carlita”, a white Bengal tiger who was part of the zoo for nearly 20 years, was euthanized Monday, according to Zoo Miami officials.

Carlita was captive born in July of 1992 and arrived at Zoo Miami (then Miami Metrozoo) in February of 1994 where she shared her exhibit with two typically colored Bengal tigers, Lyric and Roshe.

For the better part of two decades, these majestic cats were a crowd favorite and though wild tigers are normally solitary, these three females had matured together and where successfully exhibited as a trio.  Carlita was the last surviving member of that trio.

Roshe was euthanized in May 2012 due to renal failure.

Carlita began showing signs of her advanced age at the same time as Roshe’s death. She was retired to a special large enclosure surrounded by pinewood forest in the secluded quarantine area where she could enjoy the rest of her life in a quiet and relaxed environment.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks, her general health began to deteriorate at an accelerated pace and her quality of life was becoming poor with no hope of improvement. Carlita was more than 21-years old. In the wild, tigers have an average lifespan of about 10-12 years.

White tigers were extremely popular back in the 80’s and 90’s when their rare white coloring and almost mythical background drew tremendous attention from the general public. Contrary to popular belief, white tigers are not a separate species or albinos but rather a genetic mutation of a typical tiger where a rare gene produces the white coloring.  Since that time, zoos have shifted their attention from exhibiting genetic mutations to concentrating on species of naturally wild occurring animals that are in danger of extinction.

Though Carlita’s passing ends an era of many wonderful memories, a new and hopefully productive era will begin as Zoo Miami will soon be exhibiting a pair of extremely endangered Sumatran tigers at the Tiger Temple with hopes of breeding them.  If successful, it will be the first time in nearly 30 years that tiger cubs will be born at the zoo.

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