Cincinnati Zoo’s Henry the hippopotamus died on Tuesday. He was the father of the zoo’s famous baby hippo, Fiona.
After a long 36 years, Henry had to be euthanized by staff on the morning of Oct. 31 after struggling to battle “health issues for months” and losing “hundreds of pounds,” according to the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
The zoo confirmed the hippo’s death in a tweet: “We’re very sad to announce that our beloved Henry has died,” the tweet said.
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) October 31, 2017
According to a statement from the zoo, vet staff said Henry’s health took a downward turn in the past few days and that he was acting weak and unsteady. After a morning exam, they determined that his quality of life would not improve and made the difficult decision to “humanely euthanize” him.
“The blood work from Henry’s last exam gave us some hope that he was on the mend, but his appetite never returned and his condition declined rapidly. Vets and his care team worked tirelessly to keep him comfortable and help him fight this illness” said Christina Gorsuch, Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of mammals. “We are all so sad to lose him. Everyone loved him. He was a sweet, gentle giant with a big personality. He enjoyed interacting with his caregivers.”
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the 36-year-old father first began showing signs of illness in July this year when he stopped eating. At the time this seemed normal for Henry, based on his records from the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri, where he lived until he came to Cincinnati in July 2016.
When Henry stopped eating, his caregivers began feeding him tablets with applesauce and beet pulp, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
But “nothing—antibiotics, favorite foods, extra TLC—seemed to turn his condition around,” Gorsuch said in the statement.
Henry seemed to be more like his old self in August and September this year, until things took a turn for the worst.
“After watching Fiona fight, defy the odds and literally make history, it feels especially unfair and defeating to have to accept this outcome for Henry. While our time with him has been short in quantity, no one can deny that his quality of life before becoming ill was exceptional,” Wendy Rice, Africa head keeper at the Cincinnati Zoo said in a statement.
Rice said that Henry days were spent in happiness.
“From meeting, bonding, and breeding with his mate Bibi, to becoming a father to charismatic and spirited Fiona, Henry’s days in Cincinnati were filled with sunshine, watermelons, waterfalls, and the highest quality of care that can be provided to any animal,” Rice said.
When Henry was smitten with the female hippo Bibi, 18, the pair were put together when Hippo Cove opened in July 2016. Their baby Fiona came along soon after, according to Cincinnati Zoo.
Fiona was the sixth calf that Henry had fathered over the years and since the daughter survived against all odds, she became a celebrity and an ambassador for the species.