09/17/2013 03:05 pm ET

Carlita Dead: White Bengal Tiger Dies At Zoo Miami (PHOTOS)

Zoo Miami announced that they had to make the difficult decision Monday to euthanize one of their most iconic residents, Carlita, a 21-year-old white Bengal tiger who has been living with them for almost two decades.

"RIP Carlita. We will miss you terribly!," Zoo Miami officials posted on the park's Facebook page, announcing her passing.

Zoo staff says that in May 2012, Carlita began to show signs of aging and was relocated to a special large enclosure in a secluded quarantine area. There she could peacefully live the rest of her days in a quiet and relaxed environment.

But a few weeks ago, Carlita's health began to quickly deteriorate and she became so ill that there was no hope left for her improvement.

Yet at 21, she far exceeded her life expectancy of 12 years.

(Story continues after slideshow.)

Carlita: 1992-2013

Back in 1994, she shared the spotlight at the Tiger Temple exhibit with two orange Bengal tigers known as Lyric and Roshe, reports the Miami Herald. Over the years, the tigers were viewed by thousands of zoo visitors, but all eyes were usually on the striking monochromatic feline.

There’s just something about that cat with the ice-blue eyes and that white fur,” Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill told the Miami Herald.

While Carlita will never able to be replaced, soon a pair of Sumatran tigers, NBC6 reports that an extremely rare tiger subspecies from Sumatra will be the stars of a new exhibit at Zoo Miami.

"If successful, it will be the first time in nearly 30 years that tiger cubs will be born at the zoo," a zoo spokesperson told NBC6.