World’s ‘old­est’ hippo dies at Philip­pine zoo

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Bertha, be­lieved to be the world’s old­est hip­popota­mus, has died aged 65, the Manila zoo said yes­ter­day, hav­ing beaten the typ­i­cal life­span for the mostly her­biv­o­rous mam­mals by decades. The 2.5-tonne fe­male was found dead Fri­day in her en­clo­sure, with a post mortem ex­am­i­na­tion con­clud­ing that Bertha, the zoo’s old­est res­i­dent, had died from mul­ti­ple or­gan fail­ure, zoo di­rec­tor James Dichaves said.” Bertha was among the pi­o­neer an­i­mals here. Her mate died some­time in the 1980s and the cou­ple failed to pro­duce any off­spring,” he told AFP. A seven-year-old Bertha ar­rived at the zoo in the Philip­pines’ cap­i­tal the year it opened in 1959. The zoo has lost the records of where she came from, Dichaves said.

Fed a diet of grass, fruit, and bread in a 1,000 square-me­ter (quar­ter-acre) pen, Bertha lived far be­yond the 40 to 50 year life­spans which are typ­i­cal for the species in the wild and in cap­tiv­ity re­spec­tively, Dichaves said. Zoo of­fi­cials be­lieved Bertha was the old­est liv­ing hippo in cap­tiv­ity at the time of her death. Donna, who died in 2012 at the age of 62 at the US Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Gar­den in Evansville, In­di­ana, was pre­vi­ously said to be the world’s old­est hippo, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports at the time. Two years ago, an adult male hippo named Ber­tie was eu­th­a­nized at the Den­ver Zoo in Colorado at the age of 58, the re­ports said.

Bertha’s death touched off a wave of sym­pa­thy on so­cial me­dia. “It’s a sad day. Bertha the world’s old­est hippo has passed away,” Twit­ter user Eric M. Davis posted with a cry­ing emoji. “You’re one of my fa­vorites to see in the zoo ever since. Sleep peace­fully,” Jen Tolibas tweeted. The com­mon hip­popota­mus of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa faces a “high risk of ex­tinc­tion in the wild” from habi­tat loss and il­le­gal hunt­ing for meat and ivory from its teeth, ac­cord­ing to the Swiss­based In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture. An­i­mal rights group Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals crit­i­cized Manila Zoo’s “cru­elty” for hav­ing “im­pris­oned” the hippo and other wild an­i­mals.

“Bertha’s life at the Manila Zoo was one full of bore­dom, mis­ery and de­pri­va­tion. It’s a tragedy that she only re­al­ized free­dom through death,” PETA’s Ja­son Baker said in a state­ment. “This cru­elty will end only when an­i­mals are no longer held as liv­ing ‘ex­hibits’”, Baker added. Bertha’s death leaves Mali, a 43-year-old Asian ele­phant, as the old­est re­main­ing an­i­mal among the some 500 res­i­dents at the Manila Zoo, Dichaves said. PETA and global celebri­ties had teamed up on a seven-year cam­paign for Mali, a fe­male, to be re­tired from the zoo and sent to a Thai sanc­tu­ary. How­ever, the coun­try’s en­vi­ron­ment de­part­ment even­tu­ally al­lowed the zoo to keep the ele­phant af­ter ex­perts ruled it was healthy. The au­thor­i­ties were also un­cer­tain how Mali would re­act to the other ele­phants at the Thai sanc­tu­ary, Dichaves said. —AFP

MANILA: This un­dated handout photo re­ceived from the Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals (PETA-MANILA) yes­ter­day shows the 2.5tonne fe­male hip­popota­mus ‘Bertha’ in her en­clo­sure in Manila zoo in the Philip­pine cap­i­tal. —AFP

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