Rare snow leopard dies from COVID at a zoo in Illinois

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Rare snow leopard dies from COVID at a zoo in Illinois
Irbis1983, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A rare snow leopard has died from complications caused by COVID after becoming infected with the virus at the Miller Park Zoo in Illinois.

Rilu, an 11-year-old snow leopard, struggled against pneumonia caused by COVID before he finally died, according to a post shared on Instagram by Miller Park Zoo.

“Rilu arrived at the Miller Park Zoo in 2011 from the Oklahoma City Zoo. During his time here, he produced seven living offspring that are now part of the Species Survival Plan (SSP)”, said the post on Instagram.

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“He made the Miller Park 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”, the post went on to say.

Snow leopards are classed as a vulnerable species by the World Wildlife Fund. With an estimated population of 4,000 – 6,500, the main threats to their survival are hunting, loss of habitat and the climate crisis.

The wildlife photographer Joel Sartore, who captured Rilu in a film, also paid homage to the snow leopard on his Instagram account. He warned that “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. Thank you.”


This is not the first time that zoo animals have been infected with COVID. In December, two hippos tested positive for COVID at a zoo in Belgium, and a month before, three snow leopards died from the virus at a zoo in Nebraska.

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