Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn
Jill Ann Spaulding/Filmmagic
03/25/2014 at 10:40 PM EDT
Montecore, the white tiger that left famed Las Vegas illusionist Roy Horn disabled
, has died at age 17.
Horn, who was injured by the 380-pound tiger during a live performance by Siegfried & Roy at The Mirage hotel-casino in 2003, has always maintained Montecore did not attack him but was trying to save his life
Horn, now 69, believes he passed out and Montecore picked him up by the neck and carted him off to be attended to. Despite going "code blue" three times and having 25 percent of his skull removed, Horn has always defended his animal partner in thousands of shows.
Montecore died of an illness on March 19. No other details were released.
"The world has lost one of its most majestic creatures and I have lost a brother," Horn said in a statement Tuesday. "I will forever believe it was his concern for my safety and well-being that caused him to act as he did on that night long ago. We spent many hours together and he never failed to bring me great joy and wonderment. It was my great honor to be beside him at the end. He is now playing with his siblings in white tiger heaven."
Roy added: "His contribution to the avalanche of awareness for conservation and preservation has made him unforgettable. His spirit will live forever with Siegfried & Roy and his multitude of fans."