Marwell Zoo has announced the death of one of its beautiful snow leopards.
14-year old Indeever had developed arthritis and kidney disease but his increasing discomfort led to veterinary and carnivore teams making the difficult decision to put him down.
Indeever arrived at the Winchester zoo from Zurich in 2010 at the age of two and spend the rest of his life alongside his female companion Irinia.
During his 12 years at Marwell, he fathered two litters of cubs including Kadhir and Kamala in 2011 and Ajendra and Animesh in 2013.
Carrie Arnold, Animal Team Leader, said, "I will always miss him. He was such a joyful character and never failed to make you smile. Indy loved playing hide and seek. "Every morning he would run around or hide behind rocks to avoid us. When we spotted him, he would turn around and sprint off in the other direction.
"In the afternoon he would become even more playful, stalking us and following when we walked away. "He would stop every time you looked back and would then come to a certain part of theenclosure where he enjoyed rolling around on the ground.
"He’ll be sadly missed."
Snow leopards are listed as 'vulnerable' on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.Populations of the creature are decreasing with fewer than 10,000 mature individuals in the wild.
Zoo keepers said he showed a keen interest in what was going on around him.Dr Sarah Jane Smith, Deputy Veterinary Services Manager, said: “Because we know that arthritis is common in geriatric cats, we decided to anaesthetise Indeever for x-rays.
"We discovered he had arthritis in his pelvis and one of his knees. We started Indeever on long term pain relief, which initially worked really well."Indeever’s peculiar walk disappeared, and he was soon able to jump and bound around the enclosure again.”"We examined Indeever on Monday morning under anaesthesia and found that hisweight loss was due to muscle loss. There were also signs of kidney disease on his urine sample."Muscle loss can be caused by both arthritis and kidney disease; and both diseases are very common in old cats, often happening at the same time."