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Janice the Pygmy Hippo Passes Away

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Sadly the difficult decision was made to humanely put Janice the Pygmy Hippopotamus to sleep as her quality of life had significantly deteriorated due to various age related illnesses. Janice was not only one of Adelaide Zoo's longer-standing residents but the last of her kind at Adelaide Zoo. Janice has had her fair share of medical issues in recent years, having suffered at least three distinct episodes of seizures since July 2008, and early on Wednesday morning she was discovered fitting at the rear of her hut on exhibit. She had been on anti-seizure medication for some time so although this fourth major seizure was not unexpected, it was certainly more severe than previous occasions. A flurry of organised activity followed shortly thereafter, with vets, zookeepers and others nearby helping to get Janice on to a tarp and into her off-limit area where she could be made comfortable and observed easily. A heavy sedation calmed the convulsions for a time but the twitching resumed later and by mid-afternoon the decision was made to put her to sleep.

KT Sep 14 Janice 3
Janice will be sorely missed by staff, volunteers and visitors.

Janice was born at Melbourne Zoo in June 1977 and came to Adelaide when she was just two years old. She only ever had one calf a female named Petre that, up until a few years ago, lived next door to her mother just around the corner from the Nile hippos. Janice was a no-fuss but sometimes grumpy animal that liked her pears and, when in good health, all of her food! She was also a rather canny animal; early on in her treatment with anti-seizure drugs zookeepers tried hiding her five small white tablets in pears. However, she got to know the tablets were in the fruit and quickly became adept at eating the pear but leaving the tablets behind on the cement!

It was Henryk, Janice's principal zookeeper for many, many years, who came up with the ingenious idea of crushing the tablets, mixing the powder with water in a syringe, calling Janice over to the gate next to her lock away and holding a piece of mirror-bush, or another favoured treats, high enough so that when she lifted her head and opened her mouth to grab the browse, Henryk was able to squirt the solution directly into her mouth!

KT Sep 14 Janice 2
Many will have found memories of Janice from over the years.

Janice could often be seen sleeping under her hut on the heated cement, or walking around later in the afternoon between the two exhibits she occupied. Members of the public and participants on tours were constantly amazed at how small Pygmy hippos were compared to Nile hippos. A different type of feet, different coloured 'sweat' and a different diet were other points of interest when comparing the two types of hippos. And of course, despite the signage declaring 'we are not babies!', there were always casual comments about the baby hippo from passers-by.

There's still a lot we don't know about the lives of these rare, solitary, forest-dwelling animals from south-western Africa. For zookeepers it's has been an honour and a privilege to work so closely with Janice for so many years. She will be sorely missed by all staff, volunteers and the public alike.

Janice is survived by her daughter, Petre, and grand-daughter, Kambiri, both at Taronga Zoo.

 

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