December 2012 - Hippo History at the Jacksonville Zoo
Jacksonville Zoo History 1914-2014
Featured December 2012
Alan F. Rost, Biological Programs Registrar and unofficial Zoo historian
Hippo History at the Jacksonville Zoo
Remember when the Jacksonville Zoo exhibited hippos? Many of you will not remember. It has been a whole generation (1989) since the last hippo was at the Jacksonville Zoo. There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s that our Zoo exhibited both hippo species – the Nile, or River Hippopotamus, and the much smaller and rarer Pygmy Hippopotamus.
The River Hippopotamus, the first of the two hippo species exhibited, arrived at the Jacksonville Zoo in November 1961 and continued in our animal collection until January 1976. Our original female, “Judy,” a Cincinnati Zoo born hippo arrived in 1961 and her breeding mate, “Henry”, arrived in 1965. Henry was a Mesker Park Zoo (Evansville, IN) born hippo. Henry and Judy’s first offspring was born in 1968 and they would eventually produce one male and four female offspring, with three of the female offspring surviving to go on to other zoos.
The Jacksonville Zoo’s first Pygmy Hippopotamus arrived in August 1965 from Liberia, Africa. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive very long. Jacksonville tried again in 1971, and with great breeding success, the Pygmy Hippo remained part of the Zoo’s animal collection until November 1989. Our breeding male was a Saint Louis Zoo born pygmy hippo named “Seymour,” and his mate was a wild born female “Celeste” from Sierra Leone, Africa. Their first offspring was a female born in December 1974, and they would go on to produce a total of six offspring – three males and three females. All six offspring survived and went on to other zoos.
We currently have only two pictures of our river hippos and their exhibit and none of the pygmy hippos. If you have any pictures showing either species of hippo here in Jacksonville, or their exhibits, we would greatly appreciate receiving them or copies. Thank you to Dale Stewart of Jacksonville who just donated one of our two river hippo pictures. The other picture is above.