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Wildlife Park to throw party for Lu the Hippo’s 58th Birthday Jan. 26

By Susan Strawbridge Posted on January 14, 2018

State park and local children will celebrate popular hippo’s Birthday

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park will celebrate Lu, the hippopotamus’ 58th birthday with two special birthday parties on Friday, January 26, 2018.

Lu has been a long-time resident of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and has fans around the world. People come from all over the world to help him celebrate his birthday. There is an international club for people who love hippos called the Hippo-Lot-of-Us Club. They have a website and members travel to visit hippos.  Every year members of Hippo-Lot-of-Us Club have attended Lu’s birthday.

According to researchers who track the ages of hippopotami worldwide, Lu is now considered to be the oldest living hippopotamus in North and South Americas.

Students from several area day care centers will join park staff in wishing Lu a Happy 58th Birthday. The students will be encouraged to join in singing a special birthday song written and performed by park volunteer Vicky Iozzia. (Every year Vicky adds another stanza for Lu’s latest birthday). The children and other park visitors will enjoy sampling the hundreds of cookies and water.

Lu, the hippo ready opening wide. Image by Joe Dube

Lu will enjoy a specially made birthday cake that is purchased by Friends from Publix. In the afternoon, another party will take place during the park’s alligator and hippopotamus program. Lu will be offered another birthday cake at the 12:30 pm. Alligator/ Hippopotamus program so park visitors have another opportunity to join in the celebration of the birthday of Florida’s only resident hippopotamus. There will be a giant birthday card for visitors to sign to wish Lu a Happy Birthday. Lu has his own “Lu the Hippo” Facebook page.

Lu, an African Hippopotamus, was born at the San Diego Zoo on January 26, 1960. He weighed 90 pounds at birth and now weighs more than 6,000 pounds. A vegetarian, Lu consumes 15 pounds of alfalfa hay, four scoops of herbivore diet and a five-gallon bucket of vegetables and fruit every day.

A fixture at Homosassa Springs since 1964, Lu was a movie and television star with the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe, which wintered at the Park while in private ownership. His credits include the 1960s movies Daktari and Cowboy in Africa, and television specials such as Art Linkletter Show and Herb Alpert Special.

Lu has been a mainstay at the park for over 40 years. Image by David Collins.

For more than four decades, Lu has been a mainstay among the animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. When the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service purchased the attraction in 1989, the state planned to shift the emphasis of the Park to native Florida wildlife and find homes for all the exotic species, including Lu. Public support, however, led the state to grant Lu special Florida citizenship in 1991, allowing him to stay at the park.

The celebrations will be held Friday, January 26, 2018 at 10:00 am and 12:30 pm at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa Springs, Florida.