The oldest hippo in captivity, 65-year-old Bertha, has finally died. She died in the same zoo that she lived almost all of her life, the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden in the Philippines. She was the oldest animal at the zoo, and was there from the beginning. She came there at 7 years old in 1959, the year the zoo opened.
Bertha’s male companion, Bert, died years ago. But Bertha was able to live about 15 years beyond a normal hippos lifespan.
Hippos are listed on National Geographic as having a typical lifespan of up to 40 years. Bertha’s age cannot be independently verified, as there are no documents to serve as proof.
The zoo buried Bertha’s remains in a vacant lot, and will later dig them up after Bertha’s body has decomposed, in order to preserve the bones.
But Bertha isn’t even the zoo’s most famous attraction. The zoo has been the subject of action by PETA for its housing of Mali, an elephant the zoo received as a gift from Sri Lanka. Mali is the only elephant in the Philippines.
Mali, now 43, is the target of animal activists who think she might like it better among other elephants and in a setting where she has more room to move around. They want her to make a new home at an animal sanctuary in Thailand.
An earlier New York Times article revealed the opposition to removing the animal from zoo’s Dr. Manalastas. He thinks Mali has a connection with the people who take care of her, and the situation isn’t as dire as campaigners portray it to be.
If Bertha’s long-lasting life is any indication, the doctor could have a point. He doesn’t want to endanger Mali’s life in the transportation process of sending an older elephant to another country, having to sedate and ship an animal of several tons in weight.
According to a government website, the public zoo holds 500 animals of 106 different species. The species consist of 30 types of mammals, 63 types of reptiles, and 13 types of birds. The zoo also keeps a few animals endemic to the Philippines.