BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Miller Park Zoo’s Katthoefer Animal Building is being closed again after some of the big cats began showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Miller Park Zoo Superintendent Jay Tetzloff confirmed the building’s closure Wednesday as COVID-19 cases are surging in Central Illinois. The building was previously closed in early December 2021 after officials noticed the first cat began coughing and breathing raspily on Nov. 20, 2021.
“We saw issues from November that never truly went away; animals have had good days and some not so good days,” Tetzloff said.
Tetzloff said Rilu, the male Snow Leopard, is suffering from COVID-induced pneumonia. He also said all four other cats are under veterinary care.
“It is our obligation to do everything we can do for the animals here at the Miller Park Zoo,” Tetzloff said.
Several primates and carnivores, including a few that have died, have tested positive in aquariums and zoos across the country. Officials with the Miller Park Zoo have not yet vaccinated their animals against COVID-19.
“What we’re told is supply and actually getting it is the biggest issue right now so once we get it, we’ll come up with our plan with how we initiate it, who do we start with; we’re working on that right now,” Tetzloff said.
Zoo staff has evaluated and monitored the results of other facilities that have given the vaccine to their animals. Once the vaccine becomes available again, Tetzloff said the susceptible species will be vaccinated.
At the Peoria Zoo, director Yvonne Strode said almost any mammal, especially big cats and primates can catch and spread the virus. She said in the past two years staff have changed how they care for the animals.
“Keepers are very careful of when they’re preparing their diets; masks have to be worn, gloves have to be worn at all times,” Strode said.
At Peoria Zoo, no animals have tested positive for the virus, but staff are keeping a close eyes for any symptoms.
“On the daily reports every sneeze is recorded, every time they even leave a little piece of meat,” Strode said.
Miller Park Zoo is located at 1020 S. Morris Ave. in Bloomington. Masks are required at all indoor spaces.