Woodland Park Zoo makes difficult decision to euthanize hippo

A hippo with the Woodland Park Zoo is scheduled to be euthanized as she continues to decline in health following a cancer diagnosis.

Last month, after a dental procedure, a biopsy of a swelling in her cheek revealed a diagnosis of fibrosarcoma, a type of cancer.

Veterinarians and her care teams monitoring her health since the procedure have seen a decline in her quality of life, including decreased mobility, unsteadiness, and difficulty getting out of her pool.

Tim Storms, director of animal health at the zoo, believes her decline is irreversible.

“A euthanasia decision is always very difficult, but we feel strongly that now is the best time to intervene to prevent her from declining to the point where her bad days outnumber her good days,” Storms said.

Water Lily, 45, will be euthanized next week.

“Everyone who worked with Lily realized how special she was. For those she trusted, you got the privilege of knowing all her favorite things. The best spot to scratch her under her chin, her ear wiggles she would give as she surfaced in the pool when she heard you call her, and how she would always ask for a treat when she saw you even if it was just lettuce,” lead animal keeper Lauren Sutherland-Cook said. “But if it was something extra good, like a watermelon, she would suck every last bit of juice that spilled out of it. She touched the lives of every keeper who had the joy of working with her.”

Born in 1978 at the Houston Zoo, Lily moved to the Woodland Park Zoo in October 1979, where she has shared her habitat with Lupe since 2003.

The zoo is also preparing for Lupe’s future without Lily and looking at options to move her to another zoo, where she can enjoy the company of other hippos.

Members of the community who wish to see her may visit and say farewell to Water Lily through Sunday, April 28. She will be out in her pool and outdoor habitat over the coming days.