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Brookfield Zoo staff says farewell to 52-year-old hippo
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Hansel was the second oldest male hippopotamus in a North American zoo.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF BROOKFIELD ZOO

Staff at Brookfield Zoo euthanized Hansel on Thursday after the almost-53-year-old hippopotamus did not respond to medication.

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF BROOKFIELD ZOO

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Published: 12/20/2007 2:11 PM | Updated: 12/21/2007 12:13 AM

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Brookfield Zoo's Hansel was the hippopotamus version of Dick Clark. Well past the age of the average entertainer, Hansel was still creating smiles.

Hansel was the second-oldest male hippopotamus in a North American zoo. Staff at the zoo ended Hansel's life Thursday because of declining health. He was nearly 53 years old.

At that age, the 6,000-pound hippo lived nearly 10 years longer than he'd be expected to in the wild, and nearly 20 years longer than the average zoo-kept hippo.

Hansel arrived at Brookfield Zoo in 1956 from Zoo Forss in Copenhagen, Denmark. He came with a mate named Gretel. Before she died in 1973, the pair had six calves, including a daughter named Wicket, who still lives at Brookfield.

Wicket is now the zoo's only hippo. Spokeswoman Sondra Katzen said the zoo is now debating what to do with her. Options include moving her, leaving her alone, or trying to find another hippo playmate for her.

"She is 39 now," Katzen said. "She might be kind of set in her ways and not do well with another one."

Zoo staff said they'll miss Hanzel's characteristic hearty bellow, which he'd let out several times a day. He also had a trademark crooked bottom right incisor in a mouth that ran nearly a third of his body length.

Hanzel's advanced age manifested in an arthritic condition that worsened with time, zoo staff said. Even with medication, zoo staff no longer felt he was maintaining a good quality of life. Hanzel was humanely euthanized Thursday morning.