Montecore, the beloved white tiger, has died at age 17. After a short illness, the famous tiger owned and cared for by Siegfried and Roy has ended his stay on Earth. The beautiful cat was forgiven and still loved by his masters, even after the tragic event of October, 2003. As Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn said their goodbyes last week, the memory of Montecore’s life will always remain in their hearts.
Montecore, also referred to as Mantecore, was just a cub when his mother abandoned him and he was adopted by the showmen. They raised him, bottle-fed him and trained him to be the star of their illustrious Vegas act. Siegfried and Roy loved all of their animals, but Montecore was special. They all had created a close bond through working together and learning to trust each other. They became a family. What took place on Roy’s 59th birthday and halfway through another sold-out show was a horrific accident witnessed by the audience.
Roy might have passed out or suffered a mini-stroke and it is believed that Montecore simply came to his rescue. The 380 pound white tiger, age 7 at the time, instinctively acted like a parent and attempted to drag Roy off the stage to safety. Being the huge cat that he was, his large fangs cut deep into his friend’s neck, causing severe damage and massive blood loss. Only trying to help, Montecore’s innocent mangling left Roy in dire distress.
Several trainers rushed the stage to handle Montecore as Roy was tended to by medics. As the fans gasped and exited the theatre, the final curtain almost came down on Roy’s life. He had a major stroke, three code blues and lost a portion of his brain from the accident. He was barely clinging to life for a time, but was able to make clear that he did not want Montecore destroyed.
The show had in fact died with the tragic event and nothing was ever the same. Roy eventually recovered with Siegfried by his side. Siegfried spoke with much of the media in the following days explaining it was an accident. Montecore had no intention to attack and kill his master, he was just trying to help. The skeptics weighed in otherwise, but Montecore was forgiven and has been lovingly cared for by the showmen since that time.
Even as Roy struggled to lead a normal life once again, the pair somehow worked the magic for their enthralled fans one last time and did a final hurrah a few years ago. The loose strings and edges of wondering were miraculously healed in their endurance and loyalty to their fans. One more show said it all. Their spirits had healed and they wanted to share one final moment beyond their own strife. They worked the magic and brought a unified response of amazement.
Siegfried and Roy had built an empire of admiring fans from around to world to see their show and visit The Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage Hotel and Casino. It was a huge loss for so many, after that fateful night. The number one show on the Vegas Strip was over, leaving 267 trainers and employees without jobs. Many disappointed fans would never have the chance to see the spectacular magic and illusion show Siegfried and Roy had created. The show ran successfully for 13 years and delighted millions with the special effects, costumes, music, magic and of course the white tigers and lions.
White tigers are not albino Bengal tigers, they are inbred to have the rare pigmentation. They are especially fascinating because of their uniqueness. Siegfried and Roy were in heaven with the wonderful, amazing animals. The German-American duo have remained a united couple, despite Roy’s limitations and paralysis from the accident. Roy has come a long way in his recovery and the men enjoy a nice life on the grounds of an animal kingdom they have created in Las Vegas.
The pair have shared fame and fortune and near death. Now they will mourn their friend and brother Montecore, as life slowly moves on. Montecore has died at the age of 17. He will be remembered in many ways, but always forgiven and loved by his masters.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon