For nearly six decades, Blackie, the oldest Nile Hippopotamus in North America was seen by generations of Cleveland Zoo visitors. On January 13, 2014, Blackie was euthanized in his off-exhibit enclosure in Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s African barn due to advance age-related ailments. His age was estimated at being around 59 years and is believed to have set the record for oldest male Nile hippo ever recorded.
While residing at the zoo, Blackie sired three offspring (all males) and was a favorite with many guests and staff members. In 2008, a special heated pool was added to the Africa barn where he resided due to his advancing age. It was in this pool that Blackie lived out his last several years in contentment, eating copious amounts of produce and floating lazily in the private pool.
Blackie arrived from Africa in 1955 at age 1 and was housed in the former Pachyderm Building. He was born in the Mount Meru Game Sanctuary in Tanzania and was transported to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo by Zoo officials and board members including Vernon and Gordon Stouffer during an animal gathering safari (this was during a time when it was an acceptable method to gather Zoo animals prior to the Endangered Species Act).
The usual life span of a Hippo is between 30-40 years in the wild and can live a few years longer while in captivity. Being herbivores, they generally graze on grasses. Ones that reside in zoos generally have a wider variety of foods such as hay, vegitables, fruits and other produce.
The name “Hippo” is from Greek extract and means “river horse” alluding to their habit of spending much of their time in water. While not related to the horse in any way, Hippos are more closely kin to whales and dolphins.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently classifies Hippos as “vulnerable” with their populations declining due to habitat loss and poaching. In spite of this, Hippos are still found over a wide range of eastern and southern Africa.
For more information, visitclevelandmetroparks.com/zoo or call (216) 661-6500.