Bye-bye Bertha: World’s oldest hippo dies at Manila Zoo

Bye-bye Bertha: World's oldest hippo dies at Manila Zoo
Bertha, the world’s oldest hippo. Picture courtesy of PETA Manila.

Bertha, the world’s oldest hippopotamus, has died at Manila Zoo aged 65.

Following an inquest since her death on Friday, zoo director James Dichaves said the 2.5-tonne female died due to multiple organ failure.


“Bertha was among the pioneer animals here,” he said. “Her mate died sometime in the 1980s and the couple failed to produce any offspring.”

A sprightly seven-year-old Bertha arrived at the zoo in 1959, the year it opened. Records of where she came from and how she passed her infancy have since been lost.

Fed a diet of grass, fruit and bread in a quarter-acre pen, Bertha lived far beyond the 50 years that captive hippos usually achieve. In the wild, they rarely live beyond 40.


Previously, the oldest hippo in the world was said to be Donna, who died in 2012 at the age of 62 at the US Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden in Evansville, Indiana.

Two years ago, an adult male hippo named Bertie was euthanised at the Denver Zoo in Colorado at the age of 58.

Sentimental netizens have taken to social media to mourn the passing of the venerable lady.

“It’s a sad day. Bertha the world’s oldest hippo has passed away,” Twitter user Eric M Davis posted with a crying emoji.

“You’re one of my favourites to see in the zoo ever since. Sleep peacefully,” Jen Tolibas tweeted.

The common hippopotamus faces a “high risk of extinction in the wild” from habitat loss and illegal hunting, says the Swiss-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Predictably, animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has criticised the zoo’s “cruelty” for having “imprisoned” the hippo.

“Bertha’s life at the Manila Zoo was one full of boredom, misery and deprivation. It’s a tragedy that she only realised freedom through death,” PETA’s Jason Baker said in a statement.

“This cruelty will end only when animals are no longer held as living ‘exhibits’.”

Bertha’s death leaves Mali, a 43-year-old female Asian elephant, as the oldest animal at the zoo, Mr Dichaves said.

PETA has run a seven-year campaign for her to be retired from the zoo and sent to a Thai sanctuary.