San Diego, California (AP) -- Jonathan, the Snowy Owl made famous as the "O RLY" owl, has died in captivity in the San Diego Zoo.
The owl, which was 17 years old, died Tuesday afternoon after the sudden onset of pneumonia. He was young for an owl in captivity, however wild owls only live an average of 15 years.
David Phillips, executive director of the San Diego Zoo, said Jonathan had been in good health but started showing signs of lethargy and loss of appetite on Monday.
"This is a long sad day for us," Phillips said.
One of his handlers, Dale Richards, also said Jonathan died quickly. "We checked his respiration rate and it was a little irregular ... he wasn't doing too well," Richards told The Associated Press. "Early in the evening, he passed away."
The textual phrase "o rly?" was first popularized on the SomethingAwful forums. The phrase was initially one of many used during the FYAD sub forum’s fad of compressing words by removing unnecessary letters. While "O RLY?" is simply shorthand for "Oh, Really?", the most common image macro comes from 4chan, where for a short while, the word "repost" was word filtered to "owl". The Image macro and its attached phrase then spread rapidly throughout the Internet.
The “O RLY” owl was first created on http://www.OffTopic.com after an anonymous user added the phrase to a picture of a snowy owl. The owl quickly became popular on 4chan, and then spread to many other community websites such as Fark, spawning many more image macros involving owls.
Jonathon the “O RLY” Owl had recently started to turn this underground fame into mainstream success with his supporting role in the recent Wil Shriner blockbuster “Hoot”. And recently Live Journal-based musical group Local Pub Band came up with a song based around the owl, which is entitled "O RLY?". In the lyrics singer Agniya declares her desire to get to know and her love for the owl.
Nick Braden, a spokesman of the Humane Society of the United States, said veterinarians gave Jonathan antibiotics after he showed signs of lethargy Thursday, but it wasn't apparent how sick he was.
"They really do die quickly and there was nothing we could do," he said. Braden said "it's a really sad moment for us."