OKC ZOO WELCOMES (ANOTHER) HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS
History repeats itself as the Zoo welcomes a new hippopotamus in time for the holidays
Just in time for the holidays, the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has welcomed a 26-year-old female pygmy hippopotamus, Francesca. Caretakers describe Franny as confident and calm with a love for carrots, yams, cucumbers and apples. She joins Wolee, a 43-year-old male pygmy hippo, at the Zoo’s pachyderm habitat. Wolee has called the OKC Zoo home since 1999 and is the oldest pygmy hippo in a United States zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Transportation from Franny’s previous home at the San Diego Zoo to the OKC Zoo was provided at no cost to either institution by FedEx as part of the company’s FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative.
“Hippos are an iconic part of the OKC Zoo’s legacy and we’re excited for Wolee to have a new companion in Francesca.” said Kevin Drees, director of animal collections. “Transporting animals from one location to another safely is a critical but costly endeavor. We are so grateful to FedEx Express for its logistical expertise and exceptional team members who brought Francesca to the OKC Zoo.”
Francesca’s arrival was announced by Gayla Peevey, the singer who brought “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” to life, at the Zoo’s annual Hippo Holiday Sing-Along on Saturday, Dec. 9. In 1953, Gayla’s popular song inspired a statewide fundraising drive encouraging Oklahoma’s children to donate a dime to buy the OKC Zoo a hippo for Christmas. It was a successful campaign that resulted in the Zoo’s first hippo, a Nile hippopotamus name Mathilda, arriving in time for Christmas that year. For more information about Gayla Peevey’s hippo history with the Oklahoma City Zoo, visit The Patricia and Byron J. Gambulos ZooZeum.
“It was such a joy to be a part of bringing the first hippo to the Oklahoma City Zoo in 1953,” Peevey said. “I never expected to play a part in announcing another hippo’s arrival 64 years later, but it’s been an absolute thrill to be involved with the Zoo all these years, to watch it grow and to see it thrive today.”
After the Zoo’s Nile hippos left in the late 1990s to live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Wolee arrived in 1999 from the Cleveland Zoo. He and former habitat mate, Hope, had two offspring while at the Zoo including Howie, born in 2001, and Clover, born in 2004. Wolee spends his days relaxing in his wallow, lounging by the pool or taking a dip in the water. He enjoys investigating pool toys and sleeping on his cozy hay bed.
Pygmy hippos are currently listed as endangered with less than 3,000 in the wild. Although they do not have many natural predators, these shy animals are known to be hunted for their meat. They inhabit forests that are being burned and cut away at alarming rates due to logging and human encroachment. Pygmy hippos are also much rarer and less aquatic than their larger, common hippo relatives. With a median life expectancy of 27 years, they can be found alone or in pairs in the wild, ranging from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. The Oklahoma City Zoo participates in the AZA’s Pygmy Hippo Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, long-term management program designed to maintain genetically viable and geographically stable populations of specific species.
OKC Zoo fans can help support conservation efforts by becoming ZOOfriends’ members. Membership dollars are used to fund the Zoo’s major conservation efforts. Zoo guests can also "round up" to the nearest dollar when making purchases each time they visit the Zoo. This Round Up for Conservation program generated more than $112,000 in 2016 and is on track to top that amount for 2017.
Like us, we know you’ll fall in love with our new pygmy hippopotamus! Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is an Adventure Road partner and a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums and Oklahoma City’s Adventure District. Open year-round except for Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Regular admission is $11 for adults, and $8 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are free. Become a Zoo fan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit okczoo.org.