Coronavirus: Snow leopard at Illinois zoo dies from COVID-19

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — An 11-year-old snow leopard at an Illinois zoo died after suffering COVID-19-induced pneumonia, officials announced Thursday.

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Rilu, who has been at Bloomington’s Miller Park Zoo, began showing symptoms in early December, WMBD-TV reported. The zoo announced the big cat’s death on its Instagram account.

“Rilu’s personality and beauty will be missed by guests and staff, but he will not be forgotten,” zoo officials said in the post.

Rilu lived at the Oklahoma City Zoo until 2011, when he came to Miller Park Zoo, according to WGLT Radio. The snow leopard fathered seven cubs, according to the station.

“I think Rilu was my favorite animal here at the zoo, for a lot of reasons,” Miller Park Zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff told WMBD. “He has been here about as long as I have. I run the snow leopard breeding program for North America, so they are near and dear to my heart.”

Rilu’s photograph has been shown worldwide and was even projected onto the Empire State Building, WGLT reported. He was part of a photographic collection in a book titled “The Photo Ark,” the station reported.

There are approximately 4,500 to 6,000 snow leopards and are considered a vulnerable species, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

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