The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden announced the death of female pygmy hippopotamus Francesca, 26, on Wednesday, July 4.
Last week, Zoo veterinary staff said they 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, according to Zoo officials. After undergoing several rounds of intensive care treatment to no effect, Francesca passed away Wednesday. The veterinary team will conduct a necropsy (animal autopsy) to determine the exact cause of death.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums reports median life expectancy for pygmy hippos is 26.3 years. Pygmy hippos are currently listed as endangered with less than 3,000 in the wild.
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 sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” 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.
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.