At the OKC Zoo, Go Wild!

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Candice Rennels | (405) 425-0298 |

OKC Zoo News Releases


The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is saddened to announce the death of female pygmy hippopotamus Francesca, 26, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018.

Last week, Zoo veterinary staff conducted a full exam of Franny after caretakers observed decreased appetite, lethargy and signs of severe abdominal pain. During the exam, they discovered Franny had dental disease with possible bacterial infection and three teeth were removed. She was also treated for colic  (severe intestinal inflammation) and IV fluids, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered.

Despite treatment, Francesca continued to decline displaying signs of severe gastrointestinal disease and blood analysis showed progressive kidney failure.  After undergoing several rounds of intensive care treatment to no effect, Francesca passed away this morning.  The veterinary team will conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) to determine the exact cause of death

Franny spent her first nine years at the Rome Zoo in Italy before relocating to the San Diego Zoo in 2000. Her arrival at the OKC Zoo in December 2017 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. 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. 

Caretakers described Franny as confident and calm with a love for carrots, yams, cucumbers and apples. Wolee, a 43-year-old male pygmy hippo, also resides 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). The AZA reports median life expectancy for pygmy hippos is 26.3 years. 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.

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. They can be found alone or in pairs in the wild, ranging from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast.

Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation 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 admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming Oklahoma Zoological Society members at or in-person at the Zoo! To learn more about these and other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit


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