For Release: August 25, 2004
Peper Long (202) 673-0209 or (202) 391-2471
52-year-old Nile Hippopotamus Dies
A 52-year-old female Nile hippopotamus died at the National Zoo this morning, after rapidly declining health and a recent fall. Zoo veterinarians and animal-care staff monitored her condition daily and were planning for euthanasia, but the elderly animal died today.
Sections of the Zoo near the Elephant House will be closed temporarily today, while the animal is being transported from its exhibit to the pathology laboratory. The Elephant House will remain closed all day.
At 52, this Nile hippo was very old. Hippos tend to live 40 to 45 years in the wild, and only a few years longer in zoos.
Zoo staff noticed a marked lethargy and decreased appetite in this elderly animal last week. On Thursday, Aug. 19, the hippopotamus stumbled and fell, as it was moving down a few steps into its indoor pool. Since the animal's fall, veterinarians and animal-care staff have kept close watch on the animal, and were planning to euthanize after noting a lack of response to medical treatment, continued lethargy, lack of appetite, and a more rapid decline in its health. The hippopotamus died this morning in its indoor pool.
Born in the wild, this hippopotamus came to the National Zoo in 1955. It had 19 offspring at the Zoo, including a male that remains on exhibit at the Zoo's Elephant House. The pathology report will most likely reveal more detail about the animal's condition; the report will not be complete for several weeks.
Native to sub-Saharan Africa, Nile hippos are huge, bulky land animals that are also adapted for aquatic life. Adults can stay underwater between three and five minutes, and hippos asleep in the water rise automatically to the surface to breathe. They are known for their territorial nature, and weigh between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds.
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