Hippo Leaves the National Zoo for Milwaukee

“Happy,” the National Zoo’s 28-year-old Nile hippopotamus, was transported early yesterday morning to his new home at the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin. The 5,000-pound hippo arrived safely shortly after 3 a.m. at his destination.

National Zoo staff moved Happy, the Zoo’s solitary hippo, in preparation for Elephant Trails—the renovation and expansion of the Zoo’s Asian elephant exhibit. The Zoo arranged for Happy’s relocation to Milwaukee because construction on the Elephant House interior had begun. Happy shared the elephant habitat with the Zoo’s three elephants and a pygmy hippo. Elephant Trails, built solely to accommodate a herd of elephants, is scheduled to open in 2011.

As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program among accredited zoos, Happy’s move to Milwaukee will pair him with two female hippos, Patti and Puddles, for possible breeding. Happy was born at the National Zoo on Jan. 4, 1981; staff named him Happy in reference to the “Happy New Year” greeting. Nile hippos can live up to 45 years in the wild and often longer in zoos.

Happy was transported in a custom-made, spacious, steel-framed and lumber-lined crate built by Zoo staff. The hippo was trained to enter and calmly remain in the crate to prepare him for the road trip to the Midwest. Happy was not sedated for the journey. The five-ton crate housing the enormous hippo was lifted onto the back of a flatbed truck by use of a construction crane. The flatbed left the National Zoo at approximately 9:35 a.m. and was followed by a car with two animal keepers and a veterinarian.

Upon arrival, Happy entered quarantine in the Zoo's indoor hippo holding area where he will remain for several weeks before making his public debut to visitors of the Milwaukee County Zoo. For information, call Jennifer Dilberti at (414) 256-5411 at the Milwaukee County Zoo.