Snow Leopard at Miller Park Zoo in Illinois Zoo Dies From COVID-19

Snow Leopard
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Rilu had been at the Miller Park Zoo since 2011, and while there he produced seven living offspring.

Miller Park Zoo in Illinois has announced that their 11-year-old snow leopard, named Rilu, died from COVID-induced pneumonia.

"Rilu arrived at the Miller Park Zoo in 2011 from the Oklahoma City Zoo," they wrote. "During his time here, he produced seven living offspring that are now part of the Species Survival Plan."

They add that Rilu made the zoo one of the leading institutions in the world in producing snow leopard cubs.

"Rilu's personality and beauty will be missed by guests and staff, but he will not be forgotten," they added.

The Instagram page also shared that Rilu was captured in film in Joel Sartore's project "The Photo Ark," and photos and videos of Rilu have been shared worldwide, including in New York on the Empire State Building.

"I love that the legacy of Rilu will live on in the Photo Ark," Miller Park Zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff said. "Rilu will engage and astonish the world for many years to come."

Days before announcing Rilu's death, Miller Park Zoo announced they would be closing some of the buildings indefinitely to the public "as the COVID positivity in the community dramatically increases, and some of the cats are exhibiting symptoms again."

"The first cat began coughing and had a raspy respiration beginning on November 20," they wrote and said that the other cats were under veterinary treatment.

They noted that no animals at the zoo had received COVID-19 vaccinations, and masks were required at all indoor spaces.

There have been several cases of animals contracting COVID-19 since the pandemic began. A snow leopard in San Diego tested positive for the virus in July of 2021, and a tiger in New York's Bronx Zoo had COVID in April of 2020. 

In July of 2021, zoo animals in the Oakland Zoo began receiving experimental COVID-19 vaccines. 

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