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Happy Birthday, Hannah The Hippo!
by KindMeal.my, 29 October 2014
Happy Birthday, Hannah The Hippo!

Belonging to a species that is currently listed as endangered, Hannah the pygmy hippo sure does have a lot to celebrate this year! At the ripe age of 40, she is the oldest living pygmy hippo in the United States. Life for Hannah, however, has been far from easy.

Pygmy hippos are known to exist in only four West African countries, and their population numbers are estimated to be below 3,000 individuals. Habitat destruction and poaching are the main threats to these small hippos, and their struggling populations are, sadly, predicted to continue to decline.

While Hannah is special because she belongs to an endangered species, she is also unique in that she was the first known pygmy hippo to be rescued from a private homeowner’s possession. Rather than living in the comforts of a rain forest or swamp, Hannah was found in 2002 living in the back yard of a suburban California residence.

However, her life was not as cushy as you would imagine. Without access to a swimming pool or proper shade, Hannah’s back was covered with painful sunburns and deep cracks. Hippos' skin dries out quickly when they have no access to bodies of water. They normally produce natural secretions that act as antiseptics and sunscreen but cannot do so if their skin is dry. Seeing Hannah’s deplorable condition, rescuers immediately began to treat her with a big pond and a lot of antibiotics and creams. With time, her skin began to heal and glimmer like diamonds in the sunlight – an indication that Hannah was producing her own natural secretions once again.

Despite her tough beginnings, Hannah was able to begin anew in a 13,000 square foot paddock at The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center. Complete with a private pool, natural pond, heated den for the brisk winter months, and ample shade to help Hannah get through steamy summers – Hannah is showing everyone just how happy a hippo can get.

She enjoys sleeping during the sunny days and actively enjoying her enclosure at night. Each day at sunset, she relishes in feasting on “hippo salad” (a combination of apples, squash, melons, and onions … yum!), grains, and hay. When she’s not snacking, Hannah can be found floating on her back in her pool or creating whirlpools. She wiggles her ears when she’s happy.

According to Ali Crumpacker, the director of the wildlife center, “Hannah is stubborn. She is getting ready to go to bed when we arrive in the morning, so she needs to be taken care of first thing, or she will be sound asleep. Once this happens, no amount of treats or toys will convince her to wake up and move so her habitat can be cleaned. And since she is so territorial, it can’t be cleaned if she is in there.”

The facility decided to throw Hannah a birthday party (complete with purple hippo piñatas, big pink soccer balls, and party guests) to celebrate Hannah's determination to survive. Since the average lifespan of a pygmy hippo ends around the early 40s, Crumpacker says, “Every year from this year out will be a milestone.”

Hannah’s story has had a happy ending, but she is a living reminder of what can happen when people try to keep exotic animals as pets. Pygmy hippos are a greatly endangered species, and no matter how adorable Hannah may be, she belongs in the wild – not in California as a house pet. The sad reality is that there are many exotic animals living as “domestic” animals around the world. Hannah’s mistreatment illustrates the fact that most people who purchase exotic pets are simply not equipped to take proper care of them. Adopting an animal is a huge responsibility to begin with – adopting an exotic animal can have consequences that far exceed those associated with having a dog or cat.

Please share Hannah’s story and remind others that while we are so happy she has been rescued, she should have never been put in a situation where she needed to rescue in the first place. Meat-free dining is another way to celebrate the fantastic creatures who share the planet with us, and KindMeal.my can inspire you with a delicious range of promotions – http://KindMeal.my/

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