About Animals 6

A HIPPO in Our TIME

 Each year on the Central West Coast of FLORIDA, a hippo born at the San Diego Zoo that has lived in Florida since 1966, receives extra visitors at a birthday bash. 

If you watched TV in the 1960s you may have seen Daktari. On that show you may have seen a hippo, an actor in the Ivan Tors  animal acting troupe.  Recently at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, visitors, children from Homosassa Springs Elementary School and hippo fans celebrated this same hippo’s 48th birthday.  The children call him Lu.  http://chronicleonline.com/

At the morning event Lu ate the first “cake,” bread baked in the peninsular shape & iced in red, white and blue. At the afternoon party, Lu declined the bread but took melon from park volunteer Vicky Iozzia, who is producing a children’s picture book about Lu, who she has observed during her 17 years of volunteer work at the park. 

The park takes responsiblity for Lu, who as a baby was taken from his mother hippo, Lotus, to work as an actor. Exotic animals often make cute appearances in a TV commercial or a series or a movie.  Lu mugged memorably in a commercial for a tire company. But fast forward 10, 15, or 20 years. What happens to animal actors when they are too told to perform? Who cares for them then?

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This blog has produced a new book, Florida’s Famous Animals, which lists some animal retirement sites in Florida,  such as a non-profit, closed-to-the-public site, that shelters some former orangutan and chimpanzee actors, along with casts-offs from private ownership. It is the Center for Great Apes. www.prime-apes.org

Florida’s Famous Animals also features comments from fans of Lu, a black and white glamour shot of him, and his life story told in a chapter, “Lu, Town Hippo.”  www.globepequot.com

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In 1850, the first hippo thought to be seen outside of Africa was visited by up to 10,000 of the curious daily, at the London Zoo. It arrived there as a trade from Egypt,  in an exchange for British hunting dogs. Named Obaysch for the island from which it was taken, the London hippo died in 1878.

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Male hippos in captivity can live to 61, as was the story for Tanga of the Munich Zoo, who died in 1995. So Lu, Town Hippo of Homosassa, has perhaps a decade of birthday hoopla on the horizon.

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For conservation information about the 125,000 to 150,000 remaining hippos in Africa look to www.savethehippo.com

Other hippo conservation news is at the site that tells the tale of Owen and Mzee, hipppo and tortoise who became friends after the 2004 tsunami made hippo Owen an orphan. www.lafargeecosystem.com

And for conservation advocacy about many exotic animals look to The World Wildlife Fund. www.wwf.org

To meet fans of hippos the world over, connect with www.hippos.com website of the Hippolotofus group, a traveling club of hippo lovers who convene to celebrate and collect all things hippo.

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This blog slautes those who care about and care for exotic animals in retirement ~ you saw this kicker coming didn’t you ~ so

hip hippo hurray~

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