Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park invites everyone to help celebrate a very special Florida resident's 54th birthday. On Friday, January 24, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. visitors can sing-a-long with staff to wish Lu the Hippopotamus a happy birthday and enjoy cupcakes and fruit punch while Lu enjoys a special birthday cake made just for him.
Lu, wasn't born in Florida nor was this African Hippopotamus born in Africa either. He was born at the San Diego Zoo in January of 1960. He's been a regular resident at Homosassa Springs since 1964 when the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe spent their winters in Florida. At that time the park was privately owned and when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service took over ownership in 1989 all of the exotic species, except Lu, were placed in new homes.
When the park became part of the Florida State Park Service focus was placed on wildlife native to Florida. Lu, an exotic species, was allowed to stay in his home of nearly 30 years due to a public effort to keep the beloved animal at Homosassa Springs. The state granted Lu a special Florida citizenship in 1991 and allowed him to stay at the park.
Lu's life at the park today is one of comfort and relaxation, but when he was much younger he was a movie and television star with several credits to his name including the 1960's TV series Daktari and Cowboy in Africa and television specials such as the Art Linkletter Show and a Herb Alpert Special. He appeared in a Union Carbide commercial, as well.
When Lu was born he weighed a scant 90 pounds compared to the 6,000 plus pounds he weighs today. His diet consists of 15 pounds of alfalfa hay, four scoops of herbivore diet and five-gallon bucket of vegetables and fruits every day.
He will certainly enjoy his special birthday cake and the company who come to help him celebrate his birthday on January 24, 2014. For more information about Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park visit the park website.