GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo lost an iconic resident on Thursday. The Zoo announced that Rajah, the Bengal tiger who for 18 years captured the hearts of guests and caretakers alike, has died.

“Rajah lived at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo his entire life and had such an incredible presence,”
said Executive Director Joel Hamilton in a news release. “His life not only brought joy to so many of us and our guests but helped the zoo educate our guests about this endangered species and how important it is to take care of our wildlife and preserve our planet.”

Rajah came to the Zoo as a small cub with sister Rani. “She seems to be coping fairly well. She has done some calling and some searching but she is eating and doing what she should be doing as a tiger,” says Hamilton.

Even as he aged, Rajah was often seen playing with Rani and staying active with enrichment toys in his habitat, Zoo staff said in the release.

The Zoo said Rajah had been under close supervision by caretakers and veterinary care teams for a mass in his mouth and other health conditions. As his condition worsened, “It actually grew exponentially in just a few days and so he was off feed, not taking medication and his quality of life had gotten compromised.” Hamilton said it was necessary to make “the difficult decision to humanely say goodbye.”

“Rajah will live on in the hearts of our staff and all those who loved him,” the Zoo said in the release. The Zoo also said that at 18 years, Rajah lived a long life, equivalent to 90 to 95 years for a human.

Bengal tigers are an endangered species, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.