THE Wildheart Animal Sanctuary is mourning the death of one of its beloved big cats.

Male tiger Girona passed away today (Thursday) after his health deteriorated in recent weeks.

The Sanctuary, along with its expert veterinary team, decided the kindest decision was to bid him farewell.

Girona was 18-years-old, beyond the average lifespan of a tiger, and had been at the Sanctuary on the outskirts of Sandown for the past three years.

A spokesperson for the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary said: "We know how much Girona meant to a great many of our visitors from the Island and around the world.

"We know you will share our deep sadness and ask you to join us in celebrating the life of a truly majestic tiger who enjoyed three very special years with us here after suffering appalling treatment in his previous life.

"It is incredibly sad but this was the kindest decision for Girona and we will now be able to offer the habitat to help other big cats in distress find their forever home.

"Our fight continues to rescue more animals from a life of misery and to allow them to flourish in our sanctuary by the sea."

Girona was one of five tigers, along Mondo, Natasha, Zoppa and Antonella, who spent years being forced to perform in a Spanish travelling circus before finding sanctuary at the site formerly known as Sandown Zoo.

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Girona is the second tiger from the quintet to die in recent months, with the Sanctuary mourning Mondo, who died at the age of 16, in March.