Born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1981, Prince Charles and his normal-colored sister, Whiskers, arrived at the San Francisco Zoo in 1982, to much fanfare. At the time, "Charley," as he is known by his keepers, was one of only 52 white tigers in the world, and was the first exhibited in the western United States.
16-year-old Prince Charles, the Zoo's beloved white Bengal tiger, died on February 6, 1998 after collapsing in his outdoor exhibit.
Prince Charles' death was unexpected. Long-time big cat keeper Jack Castor, who had cared for "Charley" since the cub was five months old, had let the 450-lb. tiger outside at 10:00 a.m. after keeping him inside all night due to harsh weather. Fifteen minutes later, two passing animal keepers found Charley lying down and not breathing. Castor, alerted of the tiger's condition, immediately called veterinarians to the scene, who declared Charley dead.
"I'm heartbroken," said Castor on the day Charley died. "This was so sudden. I lost a good buddy today."
Results of the necropsy performed by veterinary staff indicated that Prince Charles had died of a heart attack caused by a severe reaction to a bacterial infection in his blood stream. Aside from being treated with nutritional supplements for arthritis in his hips and forelegs, Charley had seemed quite healthy, and had given no indication of any other problems.