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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The official hippo weigh-in

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications


The results are in to cap our two-week, online contest to guess the combined weight of Woodland Park Zoo’s two hippos. Today’s weigh-in of 12-year-old Guadalupe and 33-year-old Water Lily revealed the giant pachyderms’ collective weight: 6,279 pounds with Lupe weighing in at 3,285 pounds and Lily at 2,994 pounds!

Zookeeper Matt Mills works with Lupe on the scale inside the behind-the-scenes hippo barn.
More than 2,800 people entered our statewide hippo weigh-in contest, trying to win a behind-the-scenes experience with our hippos and other prizes. The guesses ranged everywhere from 150 pounds to 6,000,000,000 pounds, but only two entrants came within one pound of the final combined weight, and by random draw, 42-year-old Alane Michels of Sprague, WA was named the winner! Alane was all smiles when we called her this morning to tell her she won, telling us "This is a dream come true! I grew up coming to Woodland Park Zoo and am such an animal nut. I can’t believe it!”

The hippos were officially weighed in this morning for the press. Lily, 33-years-old, is a bit shy and not so keen on being weighed in front of a crowd (I feel ya!), so the keepers weighed her off camera first. She came in at 2,994 pounds and then retired off to the side of the hippo barn where she quietly munched on hay for the rest of the weigh-in session.

The big star was 12-year-old Lupe who gamely stepped on the scale in front of cameras and weighed in at 3,285 pounds.



Sure we had some fun making a contest out of the hippo weigh-in, but it’s also an important part of our animal care program to make sure these girls maintain a healthy weight. The scale is a new addition to the zoo—a long time ago we used to have to partner with the Department of Transportation to bring in a scale for hippo weigh-ins!—and we can now use it to keep a close eye on the girls’ weight as a sign of their overall health.

Lupe steadies herself on the scale as the numbers fluctuate on the monitor.
Lupe in particular is an eater. When we used to feed Lily and Lupe together, Lupe would finish her meal first and then move in on Lily’s food next. Now we feed them separately so Lupe doesn’t overeat and Lily gets all the nutrition she needs. Lupe’s weight is also managed by a little keeper trick—they soak her hay in water before serving it to her, which reduces the sugar content but still provides the filling bulk. As the girls each eat about 15 pounds of hay every day, that adjustment to the sugar content can truly add up.

Fruits and veggies also make for a tasty hippo treat and were in good use this morning as we led Lupe onto the scale with apples and carrots. Hippos enjoy the interaction with their keepers, but are very independent-minded animals so training requires patience and positive reinforcement to make the animals feel comfortable. Lupe and Lily are getting quite used to the scale now and are mastering the ability to stand still long enough to get an accurate reading.

While the contest may be over, the girls will continue to be on and off the scale with their keepers and with this close monitoring, we can make slight adjustments to their diet to keep them healthy and thriving.


Photos and video by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

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