by Tashun Chism
The hippo exhibit is one of the most popular attractions at the Ellen Trout Zoo. But tonight, pancho the hippo is dead. He died after swallowing a rubber ball.
"That was lodged some 45 feet into his intestines. About half way through the length, it caused a blockage that caused pressure to build up and release of toxic agents and shortness of breath on him and shortage of oxygen to his brian and to his heart," said Zoo Director Gordon Henley.
Zookeepers say since they didn't put the ball in the hippo pin, it had to have come from a visitor.
"It obviously didn't fall from the sky. It was more than likely pitched in by a visitor, which is one of the things that we want to stress. That these animals are here for people to enjoy, learn about and appreciate. And throwing things, however harmless it may seem, into these exhibits, can be deadly," Henley said.
Pancho was of one the Zookeepers' favorite hippos and they know he will be missed.
"He was always very playful. Always wanted to play. He loved to be petted. He loved the attention. A lot of times he'd always show out for the crowd. He always did what he was told. He was a great hippo I guess," said Pancho's handler, Wendi Plowman.
Zoo visitors are encouraged to enjoy the animals, but Zookeepers' offer this word of advice: