The Manila Zoo is honoring the life of Bertha, its former longest-living resident.
The female hippo, who lived at the Philippine zoo since it opened in 1959, was found dead in her enclosure on Friday. She was 65 years old, and was believed to be the oldest hippopotamus in captivity, according to the BBC. (Her age can’t be officially, independently verified as the zoo lost Bertha’s records.)
The super senior first came to the zoo when she was 7 years old. As an adult, she weighed about 2.5 tons (approximately 5,000 lbs.) and was fed a diet of fruit, grass and bread. She lived in a 1,000-sq.-meter (about a quarter-acre) pen, reports Phys.org.
“Bertha was among the pioneer animals here,” zoo director James Dichaves told AFP news agency. “Her mate died sometime in the 1980s and the couple failed to produce any offspring.”
A post-mortem exam indicated her death was due to multiple organ failure, also reported as complications from old age. Dichaves said Bertha lived far beyond the expected lifespan of her species, as hippos typically live between 40 to 50 years, both in the wild and in captivity.
The animal’s passing has spurred an outpouring of sympathy on social media (although there appears to be some confusion regarding her age).
“I’m so lucky to have seen you Bertha,” fan Jon Montesa shared on Facebook.
We lost another loyal friend last Friday. In a report from Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene magazine, Bertha, the world's oldest hippo, has died at the age of 61 in Manila Zoo, her home since its opening in July 1959. Bertha never failed to amaze generations of Manileño kids. With her eyes as beautiful as stars in the sky, she looked at the guests warmly, like a friend who gives sweet greetings along with thousands of fellow animal friends inside the capital city's zoological and botanical garden. I'll miss you, dear Bertha. Thank you for making us Manileños smile. Rest now, my gentle giant. #RIPBertha #hippo #friend #hippopothamus #animal #death #zoo #ManilaZoo #Manila #Philippines #instagram #vsco #vscocam #vscoph #vscophile #vscopinas #vscophilippines #igers #igrsmanila #igersph #igersphilippines #igpinoy #igphilippines #igdaily
“With her eyes as beautiful as stars in the sky, she looked at the guests warmingly [sic], like a friend who gives sweet greetings … I’ll miss you, dear Bertha. Thank you for making us Manileños smile. Rest now, my gentle giant,” Lem Leal Santiago posted on Instagram, along with a photo of the beloved animal.
Meanwhile, PETA has been critical of the Manila Zoo, calling its treatment of Bertha and other animals “cruel.”
“Bertha’s life at the Manila Zoo was one full of boredom, misery and deprivation. It’s a tragedy that she only realized freedom through death,” PETA’s Jason Baker said in a statement. “This cruelty will end only when animals are no longer held as living exhibits.”
According to the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, the African sub-Saharan hippopotamus faces a high risk of extinction in the wild due habitat loss and illegal hunting.