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Oldest Hippo in North America Dies at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Blackie, the oldest Nile hippopotamus in North America, was euthanized in his off-exhibit enclosure in Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s Africa barn today due to advanced age-related ailments. He was estimated to be 59, and it is believed he set the record for the oldest male Nile hippo ever recorded.

He sired three offspring, all males, during his time at the Zoo and he was a favorite of many guests and staff members.

Due to his advancing age, the Zoo built a special addition with a heated pool onto the Africa barn for him in 2008. He lived out his last several years contentedly eating copious amounts of produce and floating lazily in a pool he didn’t have to share.

Blackie came to the Zoo from Africa in 1955 when he was about 1, and generations of Clevelanders grew up seeing him in the former Pachyderm Building. He was born at the Mount Meru Game Sanctuary in Tanzania and brought to Cleveland by Zoo officials and board members, including Vernon and Gordon Stouffer, who were gathering animals on a safari, which was an acceptable method of acquiring zoo animals prior to the passage of the Endangered Species Act.

Hippos typically live between 30-40 years in the wild and can live a few years longer in captivity. They are herbivores, and in the wild they graze mostly on grasses. They eat a wider variety of foods in the zoo including hay, vegetables, fruits and other produce.

Hippos spend the majority of their time in the water, hence their name which is from the ancient Greek for “river horse.” Despite the name, however, the hippo’s closest biological relatives are whales and dolphins.

Hippos are classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Hippo populations are declining due to habitat loss and poaching but are still found over a large range of eastern and southern Africa.

For more information, visit clemetzoo.com or call (216) 661-6500.

Media contacts:
Joe Yachanin (216) 635-3310
Sue Allen (216) 635-3338