Snow Leopard Dies After Contracting COVID-19, Illinois Zoo Says

An 11-year-old snow leopard, who was one in all 5 huge cats to check constructive for COVID-19 at an Illinois zoo final month, has died from problems from the virus, the zoo stated.

Rilu, whose picture was as soon as projected on New York City’s iconic Empire State Building to spotlight the necessity to defend endangered animals, died after “struggling with COVID-induced pneumonia,” the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington announced Thursday.

The noticed mountain cat, which has an estimated inhabitants of some thousand in response to the extinction-tracking group International Union for Conservation of Nature, had examined constructive for the virus on Dec. 3. This check outcome got here two weeks after the cat, together with three different snow leopards and a Sumatran tiger, first confirmed signs of the virus, the zoo had stated.


The 4 different cats that examined constructive for the virus proceed to indicate largely minor signs, a zoo consultant informed HuffPost Sunday.

“Rilu’s personality and beauty will be missed by guests and staff, but he will not be forgotten,” the zoo stated in an Instagram put up.

In captivity, snow leopards have been recognized to dwell so long as 22 years, in response to the animal conservation group Snow Leopard Trust.

Wildlife photographer Joel Sartore, whose larger-than-life picture of Rilu was showcased on the 102-story New York constructing in 2015, shared a video of the big cat on his Instagram web page on Friday, whereas urging individuals to get vaccinated towards the virus.


“Snow leopards are proving extremely susceptible to the disease, and it’s often fatal. If you haven’t received a vaccination and booster yet, please do so. It’s more than just human lives that are at stake,” he wrote.

As Sartore famous, Rilu, who produced seven dwelling offspring whereas with the zoo, isn’t the primary recognized snow leopard to die after contracting the virus.

Three other snow leopards died from problems from COVID-19 at a zoo in Nebraska in November. Their deaths additionally got here a few month after testing constructive for the virus. Two Sumatran tigers additionally examined constructive for the virus at that zoo however have been stated to have made a full restoration.

It’s doable for people to contaminate cats with the coronavirus and for cats to unfold it to different felines, although it’s much less probably that they’ll unfold the virus to people, in response to the Cornell Feline Health Center.


The heart and federal health officials advocate that feline caretakers recognized with COVID-19 quarantine themselves and go away the care of their cats to another person or keep away from contact with the cats as a lot as doable.

Miller Park Zoo’s animal constructing, the place the snow leopards have been being held, had been closed for 2 weeks previous to the cats testing constructive for the virus and “any issue has been isolated,” the zoo stated final month.

The constructing was closed once more final week as a result of an increase in COVID-19 instances all through Central Illinois, a park official told local station WMBD.

The zoo requires all company to put on masks, for the protection of the animals, when coming into a constructing that homes an animal habitat, in response to the zoo’s web site.

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