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Zoo’s Geriatric Hippo to Undergo Dental Procedure

Posted by Craig Newberry, Communications

Lily in 2015, Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Please join Woodland Park Zoo in sending your well wishes to Water Lily (affectionately called Lily) the hippo as she prepares for dental surgery today! Woodland Park Zoo’s animal health team is set to perform dental work and wound surgery on 45-year-old Lily, the zoo’s oldest hippo and beloved among the zoo community.

The upcoming surgery is to address a wound in the back of Lily’s jaw which has become abscessed, and veterinarians believe it may be related to a tooth problem. Lily’s attentive animal keepers originally observed changes in her teeth while looking in her mouth.

While surgery presents inherent risks, this procedure is manageable and necessary to address the underlying cause and to prevent infection and other potential complications. Lily will be fully anesthetized for the procedure, which is a massive undertaking.

The surgery will involve nearly 30 zoo staff, and a veterinary dentist, Dr. Michael Lowder, who specializes in mega vertebrate patients and traveled to Seattle to work alongside the zoo’s animal health team.

Lily (and Lupe) celebrated Lily's 45th birthday in 2023!

“All of our animals here at Woodland Park Zoo receive advanced medical care and this procedure is needed to ensure the wellbeing of Lily. Our team has many years of combined expertise in large animal anesthesia,” said Dr. Tim Storms, Animal Health Director. “We will be using advanced rigging techniques to move her into position while she is asleep, to keep her safe and avoid injuries to participants. While Lily is under anesthesia, animal keepers will massage her muscles to decrease muscular injury and soreness following her recovery.”

This will be the first time in Lily’s life that she has been placed under anesthesia, and her animal health team will use the procedure as an opportunity to do a full examination on Lily to get a better sense of her overall health, complete with radiographs, bloodwork and other testing.

“It is common for hippos to develop dental problems as they age. In addition to evaluating her teeth and treating her wound, this procedure is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about her health status and ensure that we are providing her with the best possible care,” said Dr. Storms.

Water Lily was born at Houston Zoo and moved to Woodland Park Zoo in 1979. She currently weighs 2,700 pounds and is 45 years old. In the wild, hippos have been known to live about 40 years, and in zoos they can live into their 50s.

Lily shares the hippo habitat with Guadalupe, called Lupe by her friends and fans. She is 25 years old and was born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Lupe moved to Woodland Park Zoo in 2003 and weighs 2,900 pounds.

Lupe and Lily in 2021, photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

Lily and Lupe are inquisitive animals who have developed close relationships with their caregivers and keepers. They love treats, like munching on whole heads of lettuce, or playing with watermelons and pumpkins in their pool.

Woodland Park Zoo will continue to communicate updates on the status of Lily and thanks the community for wishing her well during this procedure!


Anonymous said…
Any updates regarding the hippo relocation? It's been about 4 years since you guys said you'd be looking for new homes for these two.
Ben Podgursky said…
Maybe there was pushback given how ridiculous it was to move hippos out of Seattle in order to conserve water.