MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Zoo Miami is sad to announce the passing of “King George,” the legendary King Cheetah who for over 15 years inspired audiences from Miami to New York to love and appreciate this majestic, yet incredibly rare carnivore.

For the last year, King George has experienced a variety of health challenges ranging from intestinal issues to diabetes, according to Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill.

Though he always seemed to bounce back in the past, Friday morning he suffered a sudden and significant turn for the worse.  After appearing disoriented and weak, veterinarians were called in to try to diagnose what was happening.  After an extensive examination that included a variety of tests, it was concluded that George was suffering from a diabetic crisis and pancreatitis.

In the wild, cheetahs rarely live past ten years of age, so at nearly 16, King George has outlived most of his kind.  His advanced age no doubt played a major role in his rapidly declining health.

Late Friday afternoon, after concluding that there was realistically no chance of a significant recovery, the extremely difficult decision was made to euthanize him to prevent any further suffering.

The King Cheetah is not a separate species of cheetah but rather a rare genetic mutation of which there is believed to be less than 100 in the world.  They are distinguished by broad stripes along their back and large black blotches rather than the small circular spots found on a typical cheetah.

Born on October 17, 1998 at the DeWildt Cheetah Center in South Africa, King George arrived at Zoo Miami in May of 1999.  He instantly became a star with appearances not only at the zoo and local schools, but around the country.  From the Grand Ballroom in the Waldorf Astoria in New York alongside such notables as Sir Edmund Hillary and Astronaut Buzz Aldrin to wildlife fundraisers in Chicago with Wild Kingdom host Jim Fowler, King George made an indelible impact on all who were privileged to see him.

He, along with “Savannah,” the first cheetah to arrive at Zoo Miami, was the foundation of the Cheetah Ambassador Program which has raised tens of thousands of dollars in support of cheetah conservation in South Africa.  He was named after the legendary philanthropist, George Batchelor, who provided all of the funding necessary to bring King George from South Africa to Miami along with the sponsorship of South African Airways.

(Source: Zoo Miami/Ron Magill)

(Source: Zoo Miami/Ron Magill)

In the spirit of Savannah and King George, the Cheetah Ambassadors Program will continue at Zoo Miami with “Koda” and “Diesel,” two brothers that arrived at Zoo Miami from DeWildt, South Africa last year.

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