TAIPEI - The injured hippo that has held the attention of many in Taiwan was pronounced dead yesterday morning by veterinarians, and its recreational farm owners were fined NT$500,000 (S$20,845) and may face up to a year behind bars.
Nicknamed A-he, the hippo had been a longtime favourite with local tourists that flocked to his original home at Taichung's Skyzoo recreational farm. A-he first caught the attention of the public when he was reported to have jumped from the truck transporting him to a new home on Friday, suffering some broken teeth and a broken leg, and was seen with milky white "tears" running down his face.
The next day, A-he was seen dropped from a height of two meters in the trunk holding him when he was being lowered into a new pond, as the cable on the hoist snapped.
Previously, the veterinarian of Skyzoo reasoned that the 32-year-old hippo's injuries may heal if he continued to live in a watery habitat, as the water supported his weight of two tons without straining his broken leg. It was also reported that A-he was reacting well to his new habitat, as he was seen eating and swimming around.
Early yesterday morning, A-he's caretakers discovered that the hippo had not surfaced for air over a long period of time, only to see that it has sunk to the bottom of the pond.
Skyzoo Vet Offers Inaccurate Assessment
Skyzoo veterinarian Chen Wei-li listed the possible reasons behind A-he's death as the open-air environment, the larger-than-usual space available and the extreme temperature differences from day to night.
After the hippo's body was transported to Taipei Zoo for an autopsy, the zoo announced that A-he's diaphragm had burst after he jumped out of the truck and into another vehicle. There was a 30- to 40-centimeter gash in his diaphragm, said Taipei Zoo spokesman Tsao Shen-shao, which caused the hippo's lungs to fall into his abdominal cavity.
The results of the autopsy greatly contradicted Chen's previous statement, when he said hippos have thick skin and any internal injuries should not be serious as A-he showed no signs of hematuria.
Death by Heavy Fall: Taipei Zoo
After confirming that A-he had died due to the impact he suffered from his heavy crashes, the Taichung Agriculture Bureau announced that Skyzoo will be fined NT$500,000 for neglecting the hippo's safety.
It would not matter if Skyzoo meant for the incident to happen or not, the consequences have obviously violated the law, said the Agriculture Bureau, who also added that there will be officials patrolling the recreational farm and fining it each day until the farm owners changed their ways.
The Taichung District Prosecutors Office was also notified of the zoo owners' violations.
Skyzoo Facing Trouble More Than Once
Skyzoo has been in trouble with the local government numerous times, after the farm was busted for operating without a license, and tourists reported that the farm offered rides on geochelone tortoises and saw llamas suffering from serious cases of skin ulceration.
The Agriculture Bureau headed to the farm for another inspection yesterday, and discovered that the electric fences are incomplete and put tourists in danger.