By Norah Farnham
When I was hired as the hippo zookeeper at Woodland Park Zoo in 1999, the hippos were the first animals I was assigned to care for, and I have been with them ever since.
Though I had worked as a zookeeper for 13 years at two previous zoological facilities, I had never worked with Common, or Nile, Hippos. I was instantly fascinated by 36-year-old Gertrude (Gertie) and 21-year-old Water Lily – and so were the zoo visitors.
The hippopotamus is one of Africa’s most iconic animals, and a favorite among zoo visitors. Their immense size and aquatic habits make them one of the most recognizable and popular animals, and one that people expect to see when they visit a zoo.
Since hippos commonly live only into their 40s, and hippos are highly social animals, it was not long after I became the hippo keeper that we began discussions about adding a third hippo to our group, as company for Lily when Gert eventually passed. In 2003, we welcomed 2-year-old Guadalupe as the newest member of our little herd.
|Water Lily, Gertrude, and Guadalupe|
Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo