The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was just forced to do one of the toughest things that any animal owner/handler could possibly be faced with.

According to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's official Facebook page, the zoo - which is located in Colorado Springs, CO - was met with the heartbreak of having to say goodbye to Honey, a female Asiatic black bear last Friday night (Apr. 9).

Honey, who also reigned as one of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's longest residents, reportedly started showing signs of sudden illness and pain on Friday morning.

Following a thorough exam in the Zoo’s veterinary hospital, the "difficult but humane decision" was made to euthanize her, after serious age-related conditions were discovered, as per zoo officials.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo/Facebook
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo/Facebook

A tribute to the late bear says Honey arrived at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with her sister, Beezler when the pair were just shy of a year and a half old.

During their 25+ years as zoo residents (the pair lived at the CMZ for nearly 28 years), Honey and Beezler became true stars, attracting and touching the lives and hearts of zookeepers and guests alike. 

According to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Asiatic black bears are currently housed in only four North American zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“I had walked by their exhibit for years, but until I met and started working with them a couple of years ago, I never realized how cool they were,” said Courtney Rogers, lead animal keeper for the sisters at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

“Even though they were sisters and lived together all their lives, Honey and Beezler had very different personalities. We often described Honey as a ‘sweet old lady,’ but she could also be super assertive at times.”

At the time of her passing, Honey was the oldest-known Asiatic black bear currently living in human care, along with her sister, Beezler; the zoo says her age met the median life expectancy of females of her species, which is 29.3 years. 

“Caring for Honey and Beezler was what made me realize I really love bears,” said Erika Furnes, another animal keeper for the bears.

“They inspired me to champion an Asiatic black bear research and recovery program in Vietnam, which will receive funding thanks to our Zoo members this year. The sisters did their jobs perfectly, which is to make people fall in love with them, and in turn, inspire conservation action for their relatives in the wild.”

It's clear to see just how big of an impact Honey had on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo community, and just how much she'll be missed.

In the meantime, zookeepers are reportedly keeping an extra-close eye on Beezler, as she adjusts to her sister Honey being gone.

To read the zoo's full, heartfelt tribute to Honey click here. 

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